Behind 21 from Martisauskaite, Mills gets by Tolland, 40-37.
Lewis Mills senior, Ruta Martisauskaite, sinks a late free throw, part of her 21-point effort in a 40-37 Class M win over Tolland.
BURLINGTON: Sometime, far down the line, when Ruta Martisauskaite has a “senior moment”, it will mean something completely different from what it meant on Wednesday night.
The senior forward was simply outstanding as the Lewis Mills Spartans moved on to the second round of the Class M State Tournament after a hard fought 40-37 win over Tolland, behind 21 points from Martisauskaite.
We have long since forgotten to look at records when it comes to early March and this matchup was no exception.
The Eagles (10-11) play in the always tough Central Connecticut Conference and are used to playing tough, physical games against superior opponents.
Tolland played two games against E.O. Smith, a LL school and lost by just seven in one matchup, while losing to RHAM, a member of Class L by 11 points one time and three the next.
Battle tested and able to land a punch after getting hit by one.
With senior Natalie Ruel not quite up to speed after missing the last two weeks with an injury, it was up to the upperclassmen to carry the load and, as she has been most of the season, Martisauskaite was up to the task.
“That was a senior being a senior, I think,” Spartans head coach Joe Capitani said. “That’s what she has been doing for us all year. Every part of the game. She’s Ds up the bigs, she shoots when she is open. She’s averaging a double-double in almost every game this year. Kind of under the radar. She might not get talked about very often but that’s the kind of effort we see every night.”
Martisuaskaite had a hand in 10 of her team’s first 12 points in the opening frame, scoring eight, while dishing out an assist to Wrabel on a nice cut to the basket.
Mills was up 12-8 after one and started to break a pesky Tolland press that troubled them early one.
Once again, Martisauskaite who led the way with eight second quarter points, two on threes from the corner that gave the home team a 26-17 lead at the half.
The Spartans would continue to build their lead in the third, moving out to a 32-19 lead after a fourth Martisauskaite trey found its mark.
You knew though, that the Eagles had a run in them and it came in a hurry and started with a two-point buzzer beater at the end of the third by Tolland senior Sammy Downham that lit a spark under the visitors.
As the fourth quarter started, Downham converted on a steal, opening the flood gates for four straight buckets to bring the Eagles all the momentum in the world and a tie game at 33.
Not that Mills didn’t see it coming.
“We talked about it at the end of the third,” Capitani said. “We knew they had a run in them.”
Ruel, who finished with five points, was fouled on a drive to the basket and made one of two free throws (Mill shot just 8-23 from the charity stripe) to put her team back up by one.
Tolland junior Taylor Hall came alive underneath in the fourth with eight of her 10 points coming in the last eight minutes on strong moves from the post position.
Hall’s bucket with 4:43 and another with just over three left put her team back up, but a huge bucket by one of the youngsters for Mills proved to be a huge.
“Credit to our freshman and our bench players who stepped up and weathered the storm in the middle of that game,” Capitani said. “Gabby (Bagdonas) played phenomenal and Alyssa Wrabel gave us some great minutes. It was a total program effort tonight.”
Bagdonas hit the basket that put her team up for good at 38-37 and despite making just two of seven freebies down the stretch, it was just enough to let the Spartans escape with a win, which at this point of the year is all that matters.
Mills gets to stay home for second round action when they host No. 10 Enfield on Friday night.
Enfield beat up on No. 23 Prince Tech by a 71-36 final.