KEWANEE – It was just 2 years ago that Amboy celebrated a regional title on its home floor against Wethersfield.
The Clippers were laden with veterans then, while the Flying Geese were an up-and-coming team just glad to be in a game where the winner received a plaque.
Two years later, it was Wethersfield in control from the start with a 59-39 victory on its home floor against the Clippers on Friday night, thanks in large part to a wealth of talented upperclassmen.
“This group deserves it,” Wethersfield coach Shane Tucker said. “They’ve worked hard the last 2 years, and it feels good to get over that hump.”
Wethersfield (25-8) earned its first regional crown since 2012 in dominating fashion. Amboy’s fifth turnover of the game led to a layup by Brittney Litton to make it 10-2 Geese with 2:31 left in the first quarter.
“We had our momentum up earlier in the game more than they did, and that was a key factor,” Litton said. “We planned to make them tired, and it worked out.”
Amboy (14-14) cut it to 12-8, but a 3 by Tori Rashid and a steal and layup by Litton put Wethersfield up 17-8 after the first. The Clippers committed six turnovers in the opening 8 minutes, appearing tentative against a high-flying attack from the Geese.
“Wethersfield drives like they mean it, and we don’t,” McCracken said.
“We couldn’t contain two or three of their guards,” McCracken continued. “They played a lot tougher tonight. They were certainly a more polished team.”
Wethersfield opened the second quarter with seven straight points, and Litton banked in a 3 from the wing after a free throw by the Clippers’ Kallie Appleton briefly stopped the run.
Amboy trailed 33-16 at halftime and 44-23 after three quarters, and couldn’t get within striking distance due to a poor shooting night. The Clippers shot just 30 percent (13-for-43) from the floor and were 1-for-12 from 3-point range.
The Geese shot 38 percent (22-for-58) from the field, as Litton scored 15 of her game-high 25 points before intermission. She also added eight rebounds, two assists, three steals and a block.
Lexi Nichols chipped in 11 points, five boards and three assists, while Tess Anderson scored 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting for Wethersfield. The Geese turned up the pace, something they planned to do whether they faced Amboy or AFC for the regional title.
“They did us a favor by knocking off AFC so we could play like ourselves,” Tucker said of Amboy. “You have to go out of your way to guard AFC. We’ve worked all year to play like we do, and we imposed our will tonight.”
Eleven different Clippers scored in the game. Abi Payne knocked down a 3 and all four of her free-throw attempts for seven points. Noelle Jones recorded team-highs with nine rebounds and three assists.
With just three seniors on the roster, Amboy is in the position Wethersfield was 2 years ago. As underclassmen earned more minutes throughout the year, the Clippers caught a glimpse of what the future might look like in the seasons to come.
“It was a learning experience for a lot of our girls,” McCracken said. “We didn’t get as much out of our freshman as we wanted to. We have to find people who can guard as well as [Wethersfield] did. But I know they’ll put the time in. We have a lot of work ahead, and they won’t be afraid to do it.”
1A Wethersfield Regional final
Wethersfield 59, Amboy 39
Star of the game: Brittney Litton, Wethersfield, 25 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Key performers: Abi Payne, Amboy, 7 points; Lexi Nichols, Wethersfield, 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists; Tess Anderson, Wethersfield, 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals