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Grasso Tech girls' outlast Norwich Tech 34-30

Norwich — One could hear the huffing-and-puffing getting more-and-more pronounced from the Grasso Tech and Norwich Tech girls’ basketball teams as Monday’s game went on. And with good reason.

Grasso had just six players available for its Connecticut Technical Conference East Division game, making social distancing easy on the bench while taxing the endurance of its players.

It was the first game of the abbreviated season for the Warriors as they had been forced to quarantine because of COVID-19, postponing the start of their season by 20 days.

Junior Sam Post made a go-ahead 3-pointer with under two minutes left as Grasso scratched out a 34-30 win, its first in 438 days.

The Eagles (1-4) have seven players on their roster, but one had recently been out-of-state and had to sit out.

“We tried to do some standard rotation,” Grasso head coach Jeff Duda said. “It just doesn’t work. Somebody gets hurt. Somebody is tired and they ask to come out, and then it throws off the whole rotation. We know we have one (fresh) body and (assistant) Chris (Marciano) keeps his eyes on the girls and notices if they’re tired.

“There’s certain girls that just have to play the whole game. They worked hard in the offseason getting in shape. They did pretty well (today). It’s (Norwich’s) first game, so we had a little more advantage in our fitness and our endurance, which helped us in the long run. And we hit some key shots.”

Sophomore Sophie Byrne had 18 points, five steals and four rebounds for Grasso and Post scored 10. Senior Leslie Melendez added eight rebounds, seven steals and four assists.

Grasso Tech's last win was 35-34 over Metro Learning Center of Bloomfield on Dec. 19, 2019.

Lucie Jules, the Warriors’ lone senior, had nine points and 20 rebounds, including 13 offensive. Junior Autumn Lovett had six rebounds and four steals, sophomore Kaylee Gray added seven points and six steals, and classmate Ava Collins had nine steals and four rebounds.

Norwich just returned to practice last Tuesday.

“The kids were there for every virtual practice,” Warriors head coach Dhana Tulloch-Reid. “The kids did the best they could with a bad situation.

“You look at Grasso Tech they’ve got (five games) under their belt and it shows. They’ve got some game lungs, whereas we’ve got practice lungs. … This is our first game, and my kids are tired. We’re tired. And it shows.”

Byrne made three unanswered 3-pointers to give the Eagles the largest lead of the game, 29-22, with 6 minutes left.

“She’s our best ball-handler,” Duda said. “She’s our playmaker. She’s savvy. Her basketball savvy carries us a long way.”

The Warriors regained the lead with an 8-0 run. Jules had a putback, Gray made a hook shot, and Hannah Ross banked in a shot in transition to give Norwich Tech a 30-29 lead with 2:11 remaining.

“I thought the fourth-quarter effort was really good,” said Tulloch-Reid. “Our execution, and part of that is having limited court time, execution wasn’t exactly great, but we can build on it.”

Post responded moments later with her go-ahead 3-pointer. She added two free throws with 2.9 seconds left.

“We need these types of (close) games,” Duda said. “It’s good for development as well as to be able to handle the pressure.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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