Thomaston Enjoying a Moment That's Bigger Than Basketball. By John Nestor
PLANTSVILLE - Thomaston senior guard Sydney Keith stepped to the podium at the CIAC Championship Press Luncheon on Wednesday and let everyone know that while Thomaston is a small school, there is nothing small about Thomaston girls basketball.
The Bears really began their time on the state's biggest high school basketball stage at the AquaTurf Club on Wednesday and you came away with the sense that they are ready. How can they not be, they have an entire town behind them.
Because Thomaston may be a small town with a Class S team but the game, the team, and this run the Bears have made to Mohegan Sun is a big, big deal.
Keith was Thomaston's team representative and spoke eloquently and from the heart about her feelings for the team, their school and the town. Basketball fever has been building in Thomaston all season and it's reaching a fever pitch.
"It's awesome. Maggie (Eberhardt) and I were holding signs for a bake sale the day after the semis and people were stopping left and right congratulating us, saying they can't believe you guys are going to Mohegan Sun," Keith said. "The guys on the boys team have told me they are jealous and are going to be there, even the teachers, my art teacher has never been to one game and she is saying to me do you know where I can get the tickets."
And for good reason. On Saturday at 11:30 a.m. the Bears will take on Capital Prep for the Class S state title in the biggest game they have played in nearly 20 years. But before Thomaston gets to take on the state's top team, it got to soak up some more attention Wednesday with CBS and Fox news crews on hand and media from around the state.
"It was a great day for our kids to experience," Thomaston coach Bob McMahon said. "This is something all the student-athletes in the state, they don't get to do this. We won a state title in baseball a few years back and we didn't get treated like this leading up to the game. This is something special for the kids."
It was another special moment in what is becoming a week full of them for the Bears. The quarterfinal win over Hyde Leadership got the playoff monkey off Thomaston's back and made it a nice season. The semifinal win over East Windsor has seemed to bring the entire town to life.
"It's special. You get stopped everywhere, the grocery store, school, the trotters and their parents, our students are wild, our parents are great too, really dedicated and loyal," McMahon said. "There has been a special buzz in the gym these days and I hope we can bottle it up and keep it this way."
"It was great to get past the quarterfinals, that was the first thing we wanted and then it was just get one more win, get one more win," star guard Maggie Eberhardt said. "Obviously everyone wants to be here and this is their goal but I don't think everybody thinks they are going to go there. It was kind of put in the back of our heads and coach didn't want to talk about it and now that we're here, it's just crazy."
And that feeling will only build over the next two days. The Bears know they have two more days of practice and then their toughest test of the season. Capital Prep is considered the state's best team and will be motivated after losing the Class S title game a year ago to Coginchaug. Prep hasn't lost to a team from Connecticut this season and its closest in-state game was against Career, a 19-point victory over a team that was the pre-season No. 1 in the state.
But those stats and numbers don't seem to scare the Bears, if anything they are looking forward to seeing how they stack up. You know what they say, you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
"We can't run from it and we are embracing it," McMahon said of the challenge. "I joked with one of the other coaches and said do they want to trade opponents and they said no immediately. But I wouldn't want to trade opponents either."
Makes sense, because this is an experience Thomaston, the team, the school, the town, wouldn't trade for anything either.