BURLINGTON - Two games into the season and the Lewis Mills High School girls basketball team is playing just how new coach Joe Capitani wants them.
With a mix of effort, crisp offense and tough defense, the Spartans jumped on Terryville early and rolled to a 49-32 victory Friday night in Burlington.
With the win the Spartans evened their record at 1-1 and in the process they gave Capitani his first victory as a varsity coach. Caught up in preparing his team and looking to bounce back from a seaosn-opening setback at Kolbe Cathedral, Capitani had not given much thought to when he would earn his first win, but as the clock ticked down Friday he realized he had recorded a special win.
"It's exciting," Capitani said after the win. "I hadn't thought about it much. Wednesday and yesterday preparing for today I just kept thinking are we prepared, do we have everything in that we need to. But near the end I realized it was my first one and it felt pretty good."
Mills didn't win its opener in Bridgeport but showed a lot of energy and fight and played a close game against a team that went to the state tournament a year ago. The Spartans brought the same energy against the Kangaroos and the visitors couldn't keep pace.
Kristen Van Gilst helped get the Spartans off to a fast start, scoring seven points in the first quarter as Lewis Mills took a 15-4 lead. Mills extended the lead to 29-12 at the break with sophomore Teagan Dunn pouring in 10 of her 16 points in the first half.
Van Gilst missed the season-opener with a back injury and her presence was definitely a benefit in this one.
"Kristen was feeling better and we mainly want her to be able to go when we get into Berkshire League competition," Capitani said. "Her presence is such a calming influence out there. She has great poise and definitely provides a lot of leadership out there."
Taking Van Gilst's cue early on, the Spartans kept up the pressure with their man defense and execution on offense. A nice wing jumper by Cassidy Lockwood pushed the lead to 41-17 and the Spartans took a 43-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
With the game easily in hand, the Spartans could have been excused for a bit of a let down, but it didn't happen. Whether it was Lesleigh Carter, Leanne Bearvers or Dunn controlling the boards or Natalie Ruel, Hope Shevchuck or Mikayla Penn putting the pressure on out front, Lewis Mills remained in control throughout.
"I thought we did a good job keeping out effort up for most of the game," Capitani said. "Whenever we had a lull, someone made an effort play that brought the rest of the team back up to where they needed to be."
That effort will be a calling card for the Spartans throughout the season, Capitani will demand it and Mills will need it to win games. It's early in the season, but so far Lewis Mills appears to be ready to bring that effort on a consistant basis.
"We aren't going to just showup and beat people because we are Lewis Mills," Capitani said. "We're different than we were last season, we lost a lot of seniors, a lot of good players and we need to win the effort game every night. If we win a game where we don's also come out on top in the effort category, one I will be surprised, and two I won't be happy about it."
One of the leaders of Mills' effort Friday was Dunn. A sophomore who broke through for some varsity playing time as a freshman on last season's Class M state semifinal team, Dunn was busy around the basket and constantly putting pressure on Terryville's post players to run the floor and guard her in the post.
"Teagan has a great work ethic and is really developing as a player," Capitani said. "She had a lot of hustle points tonight, beating people up the floor, hitting the boards. She is one of out leaders with her effort and we really rely on her to play hard."
Liz Haylette led Terryville with 12 points.
"I thought we came put flat and they jumped on us. We were better in the second half and settled down a bit," Terryville coach Damian Coggshall said. "Mills is still tough and its always tough to come here. They have good players and they have a winning attitude and a confidence about them because they have all been around winning teams."
Lewis Mills 49, Terryville 32
At Lewis Mills High School
Lewis Mills (49): Natalie Ruel 2-0-4; Kristen Van Gilst 4-0-9; Lesleigh Carter 4-0-8; Hope Shevchuck 3-0-6; Cassidy Lockwood 1-0-2; Teagan Dunn 8-0-16; Mikayla Penn 1-0-2; Leanne Bearvers 1-0-2. Totals 24-0-49.
3-pointers: Van Gilst.
Terryville (32): Liz Haylette 4-4-12; Olivia Pilarski 3-0-7; Julia Pilarski 3-0-7; Bailey Doran 1-0-2; Liz Klopp 1-0-2; Katie Duncan 1-0-2. Totals 13-4-32.
3-pointers: Olivia Pilarski, Julia Pilarski
Records: Lewis Mills (1-0) Terryville (0-1)