Salandra spark plug to Crusaders' success

Carly Fabbri and Emma McCarthy may be the high scorers on the sixth-ranked Lauralton Hall basketball team, but it’s point guard Maggie Salandra who drives the engine for the Crusaders’ high-powered offense.

In Lauralton’s game with Newtown High on Jan. 10,, Salandra put it in high gear with six assists and the Crusaders rolled to a 56-42 South-West Conference home-court victory.

Fabbri and McCarthy each had 17 points, while Salandra also hit double figures with 10.

Fabbri added 10 rebounds and eight assists to her night’s work, as the Crusaders brought their record to 7-1. Lauralton Hall’s only blemish is a 48-38 loss to second-ranked Mercy of Middletown.

Against Newtown, McCarthy pulled down nine rebounds and senior Emily Menendez had seven.

“Our game begins with our practices,” said Salandra. “We work hard every day. We challenge each other. I play against Carly every day in practice. That, in itself, isn’t easy.”

Fabbri’s role in the Crusaders’ offense may vary.

On Friday, her penetration in transition forced numerous fouls. The Quinnipiac University-bound Fabbri went to the line 12 times and converted 10 shots to pace the Crusaders, who took a 30-23 lead into halftime and steadily improved on that over the final 16 minutes.

“We’re at our best when we’re in that transition mode,” Salandra said. “I think that Newtown matched our quickness at times tonight. Maybe our over-all toughness is what made the difference.”

After exchanging the lead four times in the first quarter and leading 16-14 after the first eight minutes, the Nighthawks were limited to just seven second-quarter points while giving up 16.

The foot race in those eight minutes belonged to the Crusaders.

“We’re a very situational team,” said Lauralton head coach Amanda Forcucci. “We can play at different tempos when we want to. We’re always watching what the other team does. I do think we’re at our best, however, when we run.”

What concerned Forcucci the most even in a 14-point win was turnovers (Lauralton Hall had 13) and in the rebounding department where Lauralton Hall led by only seven, 44-37, despite a decided height advantage.

“We talked about protecting the ball better at halftime and about boxing out and getting rebounds,” Forcucci said. “I thought we did protect the ball better. We have to work on the rebounding.”

A 14-9 scoring advantage in the third quarter allowed Lauralton some breathing room heading into the final stages of the game.

Newtown coach Jeremy O’Connell liked his team’s effort even in the loss.

“We played on Tuesday night (in a 54-29 loss to Kolbe Cathedral) and we played on Thursday night (in a 50-34 win over Bethel) and again tonight and I didn’t see any lack of either desire or hard work from our kids,” he said, about his team which now has a 2-5 record.

“I really like what I’m seeing. We’re making strides. I think that we have one of the most difficult schedules in the world.”

Lauralton Hall, which defeated third-ranked Career Magnet of New Haven, 46-26, on Monday night, hit on 17-of-50 shots from the field, while Newtown was 15-of-52.