Bears: Different route, same destination
THOMASTON – So here are again. Mohegan Sun, Class S state championship and the Thomaston Golden Bears. Standard procedure these days, I mean it is the third straight time.
But this one has been different in process. They Bears had to find a different route to Uncasville. Oh, they found the way but it took a bit of figuring.
There was no Abby Hurlbert here. No Maggie Eberhardt. Sure, they had four starters back but the big wheels were gone. Teams graduate players all the time, not all-time great players, however. Not 1000-point scorers. Not foul-shooting legends.
Eberhardt left after the 2012-13 season, an offensive dynamo who carried the Bears to the Class S finals against Capital Prep. She graduated, leaving a young team and handed off the controls to Hurlbert.
Hurlbert guided the craft to new heights – another BL title and the classic double overtime win over St. Paul. 23 points in the final and still the probably the most talked about three foul shots in tournament history. Foul shots they still talk about today. Legendary foul shots.
Graduation claimed Hurlbert and all that leadership, cold-blooded mentality. You don’t replace a player of that caliber. So the Bears have had to reroute.
There is no Hurlbert this year. Well, check that, there is and Gabrielle has been superb this season, but there is no Abby Hurlbert. So they Bears have had to reconfigure. But along the way they haven’t missed a beat.
It has been a share the wealth mantra this year. Victory by committee. Morgan Sanson has been the leading scorer at 16.8. Left-handed relentless she pounds away at the basket, but the Bears have needed more.
With Abby Hurlbert there was always the lifeline, you never doubted. Need ball-handling? Give it to Abby. A big 3-pointer or foul shot – look to Abby. Not here anymore. So they have turned everywhere. After a stunning performance in the last year’s championship game, 6-foot sophomore center Casey Carangelo has continued to mature, averaging 14 points a game.
Gabrielle Hurlbert has taken on the point and nobody was more valuable at times this year. Last year an outside shot was an adventure. This year the shot has earned respect and Hurlbert has proven she can run the point.
Nicole Schaefer ability to light it up from three-point land has proven vital to the Bears. With teams focusing on Sanson and Carangelo, Schaefer has helped open up the offense. She came alive against Nonnewaug in the BL Tournament title game with a quartet of 3-pointers and hurt Windsor Locks in the state tournament quarterfinals.
Schaefer has been equally adept at the defensive end, she gets the other team’s weapon. She gets it done most of the time. Down in her squat, up in there face. Windsor Locks coach Doug Knowe credited Schaefer for playing his best player as tough as anyone had all year.
Charlotte Eberhardt is all defense and dirty work. She is not a scorer, but her value is at the other end. So it’s been a little bit here, there and everywhere.
Julia Quinn has begun to come into her own after a knee injury wiped away her freshman year. A jump shooting bolt of Bear, she has showed quickness, the ability to beat pressure and provided much needed offense.
It has been a given night. Schaefer against Nonnewaug, Quinn against Immaculate, Sanson against Notre Dame, Hurlbert here there and everywhere. They have had to do it a different way.
Even on the defensive end. Some frenetic pressure surprised teams early and allowed the Bears to up the tempo and not get caught in a half court game.
And the new route has always been guided by the old attitude. So relentless, so disdainful of losing. Never did they say no Abby no state final. They have always believed as one coach said – “Thomaston knows it is going to win before they take the floor. Other teams hope they can win.
There is never a guarantee. But, the Bears have found their way back to Mohegan. Again. A different way, but they have never lost sight of the destination and the will to make it there.
So here we go again. Another season that ends on the last possible day in the best possible place, Mohegan Sun.
Something to stand back from and admire.