WILMINGTON – If you just look at the box score, the contributions of Olivia Spizuoco to the Wilmington High Girls Basketball team might sometimes go unnoticed, as the senior guard and captain is generally not the Wildcats top scorer or rebounder. Rather, she is the type of player that every team needs if they hope to be successful, a player who will do all of the little things to help will her team to victory.
Last week’s First Annual Wilmington High Girls Basketball Holiday Tournament was a perfect example of what Spizuoco brings to the Wildcats, as she helped lead her team to the tournament championship, earning Tournament MVP honors along the way.
While Spizuoco put up solid scoring numbers with nine points in the Wildcats 47-18 semifinal win over Groton Dunstable last Wednesday, and 12 in a 63-49 win over Reading in Thursday’s championship game, she was not the team’s top scorer. However, it was her all-around game, particularly her stellar defense that locked up the MVP trophy for the talented senior.
“Liv did a great job on the defensive end guarding Reading’s top scorer.” Wilmington coach Jessica Robinson said. “Jackie Malley is probably the best shooter we will see this year and someone who could pop off for an easy 30 points, and Liv was extremely good at sticking to her and making her have to make tough shots.”
As excited as Spizuoco, in her third year with the Wildcats varsity club, was to win MVP honors, she was even more excited to see her team come away with the tournament victory, especially after suffering a lopsided 53-20 loss to Watertown in their previous game.
“Winning the tournament was really important to us, because coming off the tough loss to Watertown, we wanted to show our potential and show what we can do if we play together,” Spizuoco said. “I think it helps us establish our confidence again. These wins showed that if we execute well, we can beat anybody, as long as we are working hard.”
Of course, being named Tournament MVP was pretty cool as well, although it did take her surprise
“That was super exciting. I really didn’t expect it, so it was great to win it,” Spizuoco said. “It really helps me feel confident and I was so happy with how the team played.”
Spizuoco acknowledges that her defense is the strength of her game, and she takes great pride in being able to shut down the opponent’s top scoring threat, particularly one as talented as Malley, as long as it is helping her team win games.
“I am definitely more of a defensive player,” Spizuoco said. “Now that we have lost some of our top scorers, there is definitely more opportunity to score, but what I really like is making a stop under our basket and then creating opportunities for my teammates.”
At the same time, Spizuoco also prides herself in being a more well rounded player than she has been in years past. A big part of her having a more well rounded game has been as simple as gaining more experience. Spizuoco missed five weeks of last year’s COVID abbreviated season with an ankle injury before coming back for a few games at the end of the season. Even then, she was not at one hundred percent, making it difficult for her to fully work on her game. Back at full strength, this season has been much a much different story.
“Definitely last year and my sophomore year, I was not as confident as I now am offensively,” Spizuoco said. “I am glad I am now able to use my skills on both sides of the court,”
Those skills were on full display in the Wildcats 63-49 win over Reading in the championship game, when in addition to her stellar defense, she also chipped in 12 points, making the most of her opportunities.
“Liv was also really solid and efficient on the offensive end, finishing the tournament with an effective field goal percentage of about 63%,” Robinson said.
The Wildcats had lost to Reading 50-46 earlier in the season in a game where they got off to a very slow start before mounting a comeback that fell just short. Spizuoco was happy to see a different result this time around, with the Wildcats jumping out to leads of 17-4 after one quarter and 35-13 at the half.
“I think our slow start was definitely the problem the first time we faced them, and that was a problem for us in our first few games this season,” Spizuoco said. “When you come out slow in the first quarter it makes it much more difficult to come back, but if we play a fill 32 minutes, we don’t have to try and come back like that.”
As for the rest of the season, Spizuoco is expecting big things for her team. Now that they have reached the .500 mark for the season at 3-3, she sees even brighter days ahead.
“I have a lot of hopes for this team,” Spizuoco said. “We are using the outcome of the Watertown game to help us. The Reading game showed how well we can play when we play together and if we keep doing that, I think we can definitely have a very good season the rest of the way.”