Are Lopsided Scores Part Of A Bigger Trend?

Girls Basketball Paying Price For Athletes Concentrating On Other Sports

On Dec. 18, the RHAM girls basketball team beat Hartford Public, 84-6. That same night, Tolland beat Fermi, 50-6.

The dual blowouts came almost a week after Bloomington South (Indiana) made headlines by beating Arlington, 107-2.

While the two Connecticut games weren't as bad as the debacle in Indiana, those in basketball circles have started to talk, wondering if there is less parity in girls basketball in Connecticut than there was five or 10 years ago, as well as fewer teams and players playing at a higher level.

University of Hartford assistant coach Brian Mik has recruited in the state the past 13 years. He believes the quality of play has declined because girls are playing so many different sports besides basketball. And when some become involved in one sport, they focus on it, playing that sport in its offseason and abandoning other sports.

"Five or 10 years ago, you would have a girl play volleyball, basketball and softball," Mik said. "Now with it being so demanding, a lot of kids only focus on one sport.

"A lot of kids are now one-sport specific. The talent level [in girls basketball] has gone down the last 5-10 years."

According to CIAC numbers, about 200 fewer girls are playing basketball this season than in 2003-04, when 4,263 played. There are 4,001 girls playing this season.

Yet more girls are playing sports overall. Last year, 45,640 girls played sports in Connecticut, up from 41,536 in 2003-04.

Some cite middle schools cutting sports due to budgetary constraints as part of the problem. Whereas boys seem to find other outlets to play if there is no middle school team, girls may face limited opportunities outside of school or they do not appear to seek out outside opportunities as much as boys do.

Avon coach Frank Waters said he used to get 45 to 50 girls at his tryouts. Avon does not have middle school basketball for boys or girls. The past few years, Waters had fewer than 40. In 2009, Avon was able to play with powerhouse Hillhouse in the Class L semifinal, losing 75-70. This season, the Falcons, who used to dominate in the NCCC, are 6-2 and have already lost an NCCC game.

"I have found over the last several years, there are fewer quality and committed basketball players coming to Avon High School," Waters said. "Maybe it is just a cycle. It may have something to do something with middle school [basketball] being eliminated in Avon. Avon is a big soccer town, too. We're down, compared to the two best years I've ever had. It hasn't been the same since. I'm hoping it's a cycle."

Manchester coach John Reiser said he has had fewer players come out for his team, which won the Class LL title in 2005 and was runner-up in 2007, after one middle school was eliminated in town and turned into a sixth-grade academy.

"Instead of having 30 girls playing basketball, you have 15," Reiser said.

This season, Manchester, which lost Courant Player of the Year Ashley Perez and a group of seniors who advanced to the Class LL semifinal game last year, is 2-6.

"I have seen some good young players," he said. "I think it's a little cycle we're going through."

Sean Sweeney at Fermi said a reduction in middle school sports in Enfield has hurt his team, although the middle school athletics that were cut were reinstated this year.

"That was very damaging," said Sweeney, whose team is 1-8.

The two teams involved in the blowouts on Dec. 18, Fermi and Hartford Public, played each other Wednesday night, and Fermi beat Hartford Public for its first win.

Sweeney said that during his earlier game against Tolland, he believed that Tolland coach Vinnie Cianfarani tried to keep the score down.

"It was 23-0 after the first quarter, and every kid from Tolland who was eligible to play played," Sweeney said. "Ten kids played in the first quarter."

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