Big underdogs and big deal; the Bears will fight
THOMASTON – Let’s be honest here, this is `Hoosiers’ all over. Hickory vs. South Bend Central. David vs.Goliath. Anybody that plays the UConn women except for Notre Dame and Baylor.
It may not have the Hoosier ending, but that remains to be written at this writing. We know this, the Bears will put up a scrap in the Class S title game Saturday. They have been appreciative and duly impressed by who No.1 Capital Prep is and what they are about. But, they have not been cowed.
The Bears will swing away and if you are looking for a deer in the headlights go to the northern woods. You won’t find it wearing brown and gold.
There are few that give the Bears a chance in the game. Not because of what the Bears aren’t but because of who Capital Prep is. The Trailblazers are the No. 1 team in the state. They won their regular season games by an average of 47 points.
It gets harder in the tournament, right? Guess not. Capital has made a mockery of Class S, beating three opponents by an average of 63 points. Heck in the semifinals they flat out erased a good Morgan-Clinton team, 92-36. The closest game in Connecticut was against a top 10 team, Career Magnet, 76-57.
Playing in the weak tech school league, the Trailblazers scheduled six out of state teams and beat four of them. The only losses came to Archbishop Malloy of N.Y., 55-50, and Bishop Ford Central Catholic of New York, 66-64.
Capital has size, speed and hounds you with athleticism. There is also a degree of arrogance here. They pound teams and coach Tammy Millsaps could care less about what other people think.
It is a daunting task no doubt. Heck, the Bears are barely mentioned as the opponent. The Hartford Courant was at the luncheon for the finalists at the Aqua Turf on Wednesday. There were stories on three of the four finals. You want to guess what game was not mentioned.
Capital Prep did get its own story today (Friday). Thomaston is mentioned once as the other team. This is about little respect and why show up. The Bears could care less.
Maybe the Trailblazers do the stomp. They have done it to every other team. But, Thomaston believes and well it should. No champion goes into a game thinking it is beaten. It may take perfection but it can be done. No one else believes, I can assure you.
And that is not an insult, it goes back to what Capital is.
But as you have watched the Bears this week what you have seen is not about backing off, not about luxuriating in the idea of just being there and playing at Mohegan Sun. It’s been more about, `bring it on.’
This is a feisty bunch. The leader of the band or the Bears as it may be, Maggie Eberhardt has always played with a touch of the chip on her shoulder. Eberhardt won’t scare anybody with her size but you want tough, you want Eberhardt.
Eberhardt is one of the all-time greats at Thomaston. She will finish her career with somewhere around, 1,100 points. There is a lot of talent here and she likes to show it off in prime time. She is very big time. She is a shooter with the bad ball rotation that finds the bottom of the net with admirable consistency. She is a scorer and she has carried a big dagger around throughout her career and her opponents have felt the pain.
But there is a bundle of tough to go with the talent. You really don’t want to tick Maggie off. Whatever happens Saturday, she’ll be ready.
Abby Hurlbert has a lot of her father, Johnny’s persona. If you know Johnny you know this. He is the finest basketball player to ever come out of Thomaston. He was one of Jack Phelan’s toughest guys at the University of Hartford in the 1980s.
When a BL coach said something to him during a high school game, Johnny turned around and said something that can’t be printed here. Then he went down and dunked. Don’t poke the Bear. Like father, like daughter.
He guarded people like former NBA star Xavier McDaniel in college. He beat UConn with a pair of foul shots in the then Civic Center. He still plays. Meet his daughter.
Abby learned well from dad. She’s got game and she is a big presence on the court. She will not be intimidated. Push her and she pushes back. There is a fierce competitor’s persona here just like with Eberhardt.
The rest of the Bears are very similar. The play hard. They run to challenges not away from them. Sydney Keith doesn’t say much but she gets the tough defensive assignment. She relishes it. Bryttnie Thomas just goes at it and for it.
Morgan Sanson is just a freshman. Big deal. She is still learning but being tough isn’t part of the lesson. That she knows. Her mom is Lisa Hurlbert and a softball Hall of Famer. On the court how about 994 career points and 1,014 rebounds. All-State.
All the players are forging their own way and writing their own stories but don’t underestimate the bloodlines.
Capital Prep may roll. There are bunch of Division I players here. But if the Trailblazers expect the Bears to be intimidated and to take a step back, it might be the romp they are expecting. The Bears will smack back.
It has been a special week for the Bears and the town. These are big doings in a small town. It has been alive and hopping.
It ends Saturday. It is an uphill climb for the Bears, that is the worst kept secret anywhere. Nobody is thinking they can win except for them. But win or lose, know this. The Bears will go out fighting.
That is who they are. And one heck of a basketball team that had one heck of a year.