Staying committed to West Haven girls basketball program paying off for college-bound Abuhatab, Carrano

Amani Abuhatab and Kassidy Carrano wanted nothing more than to finish their high school basketball careers together at West Haven High.

There were opportunities for both to leave and play at private CIAC, FAA and NEPSAC schools, but neither went the route of others before them.

“I started here 10 years ago and I can’t tell you how many times we play other teams and I would see my former students in the opposite jersey,” West Haven coach Jessica Moriarty said. “Having these two players stay here and embrace West Haven like they have, means a lot to this program and this school. You work with what you have but keeping them here, helps everyone.”

Abuhatab has attended the Engineering and Science University Magnet School (ESUMS) in West Haven the past three years but has played basketball at West Haven.

This year, seeing her teammates just at practice was not going to be enough and Abuhatab transferred into West Haven full time.

“I just wanted to finish it out with my girls. I just transferred here and I am excited to be with them all the time,” Abuhatab said. “It’s great, we get to play with our best friends every day, you can’t get better than that. Going from 200 kids to 2,000 in the school was a lot but I am glad I did it.”

Moriarty said the decision of the players to stay at West Haven has not just benefited the program for the present, but hopefully for years to come.

“They have changed the outlook of the program and have younger kids wanting to be in West Haven and playing on this court,” Moriarty said. “Kassidy and Amani and Dealyce (Howard), those three have been playing together since they started playing basketball as kids in West Haven and they wanted to stay together. They didn’t want to break apart, they wanted to stay at West Haven and stay together and achieve big things.”

The program has flourished in the time Abuhatab and Carrano have been at the school and the turnaround has been dramatic.

Their freshmen season, the Blue Devils made the CIAC Class LL tournament after failing to do so the previous two seasons.

In 2020-21’s shortened season, West Haven reached the SCC Division-II title game, losing to Sacred Heart Academy.

Last season, West Haven went 17-3, losing in the SCC semifinals and getting upset in the second round of the CIAC Class LL tournament.

This season, they are 7-4 with three of their losses coming to teams in the top five of the GameTimeCT Top 10 Poll.

The recent success is due to the best players staying home.

West Haven was not just keeping two average players in Abuhatab and Carrano.

Abuhatab, who will play basketball at Mercy College, is a two-time GametimeCT First-Team All-State pick who already has 10 double-doubles this season, averaging 19.7 points and 14.7 rebounds, all while standing just 5-foot-6.

Now a senior, she is considered one of the SCC and state’s best players.

“Amani is the full package. You watch her play and you see the stats and you think you are watching a 6-foot guard and we list her at 5-6,” Moriarty said. “She plays so much bigger than she is. The best compliment I can give her is, she plays like a guy. She will do whatever it takes. She’s incredible. Whether on rebounds or scoring, she does it all well.”

Abuhatab was the height she is now in middle school, towering over many players and playing mostly in the post.

Realizing she was not going to get much taller, Abuhatab started working out as a guard, knowing that if she were to ever play in college, that is where she would have to do it.

“When she was younger, she was always one of the bigger kids and kind of stopped growing,” Moriarty said. “Then she started developing her perimeter game and shooting from the outside and her midrange jumper game has been phenomenal. Rec league and travel when she was younger, she played inside and had an up-and-under move and was stronger and bigger than other kids. She’s naturally so strong.”

Carrano, who will play at Springfield, was an All-SCC pick and a GametimeCT All-State Honorable Mention as a junior.

This season she has three double-doubles and is averaging 10 points a game but it is her commitment to the dirty work that makes her most valuable.

“Kassidy is the kid that can fill up a stat line but she does all those other things that don’t show up in the book,” Moriarty said. “She’s diving on the floor, crashing the boards from out of nowhere. She does all those little things where her intensity changes the dynamic of a game. The uncoachable stuff comes naturally to her. She’s a workhorse and never stops, the motor is always going. She doesn’t stop.”

While Carrano always worked hard, it was not until last season that she began breaking out as a scoring threat.

“Her confidence is where she has made the biggest leap over her four years,” Moriarty said. “We have known since she came in the talent she has, but it was about getting her to believe it. Last year was the turning point for her where she had a tremendous season. The growth in her confidence has been fun to watch.”

Together, they make up one of the best tandems in the state, drawing the attention of opposing defenses.

“Having the two of them, so much of the focus is on them that it creates opportunities for other girls on the team. They make everyone else better,” Moriarty said. “As talented as those two are, we want to see other kids on our team have success as well. Sharing the basketball has been huge. We have been a very balanced team this year which helps immensely and makes us tough to guard. When they are at their best, we are at our best.”

The two, along with fellow senior Howard, have been playing together since elementary school on recreation and travel teams. They also play in the offseason for the AAU program BattleCon.

“We have a lot of chemistry and we work really well together,” Carrano said. “I can tell how Amani will move on the court, if she’s going to shoot or she’s going to cut. Sometimes I can just tell by how she’s standing what she’s thinking about doing. We all play together in the offseason and we all gel really well together because we have been playing together so long.”