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Week of Jan. 1: Make it nine straight as Centaurs send Wolves home with a loss

It is certainly a happy locker room.

The Woodstock Academy girls basketball team has had a pretty successful first month of the season.

“We’ve worked very hard at practice. I feel like, as a team, we’ve been grinding and it has been paying off for us,” Centaurs junior Sophia Sarkis said.

It has.

Nine straight wins, 10 overall in the first 11 games and a state tournament berth clinched.

“The way we’re playing right now, I’m ecstatic,” Woodstock Academy coach Will Fleeton said. “They are executing, doing the things that we’ve talked about. As competitive as I am, I want to win but deep inside if the girls perform like they have performed, I’m happy regardless.”

It’s been a pretty simple formula for the most part.

Get out to a fast start.

Produce another balanced effort.

Post another win.

“Honestly, it’s a team effort,” Woodstock Academy sophomore guard Kaylee Saucier said. “Every game there is a different high scorer. We’re not worried about ourselves but more about what the team can accomplish together.”

Woodstock Academy finished off a rather interesting week Saturday with a 46-21 win over Amistad High School from New Haven.

The Centaurs started a four game, two opponent stretch the Saturday before with a win over Amistad on the Wolves home floor.

They picked up wins over East Lyme on both Tuesday and Thursday prior to the second victory over the Wolves.

“That was our goal,” Sarkis said of finishing 4-0 in that stretch.

Woodstock Academy wasted little time as it scored the first 15 points of the game and led 18-5 at the end of the first quarter.

Sarkis (five rebounds, two assists) came on in the second quarter to score all six of her points in the game in a two-minute stretch.

“I try to contribute any way I can and Coach wants me as a spark off the bench whether it’s through points, offensive rebounds, defense, whatever it is, I will do it,” Sarkis said.

Those thoughts resonate throughout the team.

Against the Wolves, Saucier led the way with 14 points while Eva Monahan added seven.

Senior captain Reegan Reynolds contributed five offensive rebounds.

“It was a trap game and we had to perform,” Fleeton said. “I think we performed at a high level and handled what we should handle. We were able to work on some new things within the game because I kind of knew what defense they would show and we prepped for it a bit and were able to work on some things that will, hopefully, help us in the future.”

It was Monahan who turned the tide on Thursday in a 49-33 win over East Lyme.

The Vikings kept it close early as the first half ended in a 20-20 tie.

But the junior center caught fire in the third quarter.

She scored 12 of her game-high 20 points to lead the Centaurs on a 20-5 run that essentially sealed the victory for Woodstock Academy.

Monahan was also a monster off the offensive glass, pulling down 11 rebounds on that end.

Isabel D’Alleva-Bochain added 12 points in the win.

Just a day prior, the two teams had met at the Alumni Fieldhouse where it was decided much faster.

The Centaurs posted a much easier, 61-25, victory.

The two wins over the Vikings raised the Centaurs Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I record to 3-1.

The Centaurs got out of the gates quickly.

Saucier scored seven of her 12 points in the first quarter as Woodstock Academy bolted to a 13-5 advantage by the end of the first quarter.

Despite the early lead, Saucier thought it could still be better.

“We know we want to start fast but we didn’t play as good as we could have because we had a couple of turnovers. We really want to clean that up and step it up even more,” Saucier said.

The lead blossomed to 24 by the half, 32-8, with Sidney Anderson getting 10 of her game-high 20 points in the first half.

The six-foot sophomore added five steals and three blocks.

“She’s a long perimeter player who has post skills because of her length. What makes her special is that she can dribble, she can shoot, she can guard all five spots. She’s a dynamic, next-level player,” Woodstock Academy coach Will Fleeton said.

The Centaurs had little to worry about in the second half as they bolted out of the gates again, scoring seven of the first nine points.

D’Alleva-Bochain had a pair of 3-pointers and finished with eight points.

Monahan and Sarkis each pulled down six rebounds.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier.

In fact, it may get increasingly difficult with Fitch, Killingly, New London and Bacon Academy on the immediate horizon.

“We have a tough week with Fitch and Killingly coming up, but I think we’re ready,” Sarkis said.