Girls basketball: Manchester coach Leanne Crockett helping her alma mater get back to its glory days
The banners are hanging up on the wall at the Manchester High gym. They’re a little faded.
One, from the 2004-2005 season, belongs to the first girls basketball team in the state to go 28-0, a team that former coach John Reiser believes is the best girls basketball team in state history. Three starters scored over 1,000 points, the other two scored over 900. Three went to Div. 1 colleges, two went to Div. 2 Post University. They won their five state tournament games by an average of 24 points, capping it off with a 63-48 win over defending champion Windsor in the Class LL championship game. The first banner, from 2002-2003, was from the freshmen and sophomore year of many of the key players on that team.
Leanne Crockett was one of those 1,000-point scorers. She held the school’s three-point shooting record and was also a standout track athlete in the shot put, discus and javelin.
Crockett is now in her fifth season as the coach at Manchester, after taking over for Reiser, who now coaches the boys team.
And the Red Hawks are 13-5, with two regular season games remaining. It’s the first time they’ve had a winning regular season record since 2012 when Ashley Perez, who scored over 2,000 points in her career, played and Manchester advanced to the Class LL semifinal.
“I don’t know if these girls have any idea of what it used to be like,” said Crockett, who went on to play at Central Connecticut. “I think I have a VHS tape from the championship game my freshman year against NFA. I don’t even know where I could play that.
“I don’t like to talk too much about the past because they don’t care that much. [I tell them], ‘Winning is fun. There comes a lot of cool things with it.’ That’s what I try to push on them.”
The Red Hawks, who went 9-11 in the regular season last year, have a large group of juniors, including forward Tyonna Tyson, who averages 22.4 points and 9.8 rebounds. They have played together since grade school.
“I ultimately think we’ve come together because we’ve been playing for so long,” Tyson said. “We’ve finally got a rhythm and a flow and we’re doing really well.”
The lone senior is point guard Madison Glasgow, who averages 13.2 points and 3.3 assists.
“I think we’re more active on defense [since last year],” Glasgow said. “We’re getting everybody involved. We’re having more fast break looks, getting good looks for everyone.”
Manchester has a number of quality wins, including a 78-66 victory over Enfield, a 63-62 win over Bulkeley/Weaver and a 47-36 win over East Hartford.
“Our best game had to be Enfield,” Tyson said.
“Our ball movement was probably the best this year for that game,” Glasgow said. “Out of my four years, probably.”
“Defense was on point as well,” Tyson said.
Reiser has enjoyed watching Crockett rejuvenate the team.
“The numbers dropped off [after 2012],” he said. “We had been so good for so long. We went through a stretch of 11 years where we averaged 22 wins a year.
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“I was hoping it would work out this way where she would slide in and it did. She slowly built it up. They’re pretty young. They’re all juniors. There’s some good girls at the middle school, too. So yeah, things are picking up here again. It’s nice to see.”
Tyson said she looks up at the old banners often.
“We try to work at practice and at games to get to that point where we once were when our coach was playing here,” she said. “That’s a little bit of motivation for us.”