Thomaston goes down fighting at Mohegan
UNCASVILLE – The final play of Morgan Sanson’s storied high school basketball career was less than ideal.
With 6:20 remaining in Thomaston’s Class S championship battle against Canton, the senior fouled out with the Golden Bears fighting for dear life in their quest for a third straight title, trailing by 13.
After emotionally greeting her coaches and teammates on the bench, Sanson turned to her teammates on the floor and screamed, “Let’s go!” While thinking a comeback may be in the cards at that point would seem unrealistic for some, you can’t blame anyone on Thomaston for thinking so. Over the past four seasons, this team has done it all, from dominating wins, unexpected upsets, and crazy come-from-behind state tournament wins.
And for just a moment, it looked like the Golden Bears had one last gasp in them, cutting the lead down to five. But a three-peat wasn’t meant to be. Canton avenged its Class S title game loss from last year, winning 64-51 at Mohegan Sun Arena, ending Thomaston’s two-year reign atop Class S.
Thomaston’s four-year run consists of two runner-ups and two titles. On Saturday, it ran out of time and players, thanks to fouls.
“We’re disappointed the season’s over, and that it didn’t end like it’s ended a few other times because it’s really fun,” Thomaston coach Bob McMahon said. “We don’t get that side of it today, and that’s part of the deal.”
The game was closely called by the officials and Canton’s ability to take advantage was the difference. The Warriors made 28-of-38 foul shots, including 14 in the fourth quarter. Margaret Treacy (game-high 25 points) and Emily Briggs (18 points, nine rebounds) combined to make 24-of-31 themselves, while Sanson, Gabrielle Hurlbert, and Casey Carengelo each fouled out. The large Thomaston contingent in the stands made their displeasure known to the refs, but to no avail.
“I don’t blame the stripes in any way, shape, or form,” McMahon said. "They were only doing their job.”
Thomaston only made 11 of its 18 attempts at the line and shot 32.7 percent from the field. After one, it was tied at eight, but then the Warriors outscored Thomaston in each of the final three quarters. Canton’s stifling defense, which forced 15 turnovers, gave the Golden Bears fits. Abigail Skinner's lay-up with one minute left upped the lead to 10, all but sealing the win.
“They got in our face and made us uncomfortable,” McMahon said. “That’s the best (defense) we’ve faced all year. They really came to play. Hats off to a championship effort, they really deserved it.”
Julia Quinn led Thomaston with 17 points and Carangelo notched a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. When it was over the Golden Bears showed class and clapped as Canton received its championship trophy. They then retreated back to the locker room and reminisced about an out-of-nowhere four-year journey.
“It’s a great feeling,” Hurlbert tearfully said after her career came to an end, which included a game-ending steal to seal last season’s championship. “Making it here four times is a great accomplishment, winning or losing. You’ve still made it to the championship game, if you’re second or first, whatever, it’s a great accomplishment. It was a fun run, but it’s sad it had to end up this way.”
“Our seniors have been amazing,” added McMahon. “The saddest part is not losing this game by far, the saddest part of today is that it’s the last time they put the uniform on. I’m proud of everything they have done.”
But McMahon is confident the Golden Bears, who end this season 26-2, are not done.
“I hope it ain’t over,” he said. “We have some quality players coming back. And we’re going to do the same thing we always have done.”
Mohegan Sun Arena has had a lot of signature moments in its 15 years. From Michael Jordan opening the arena in his return to the NBA with the Wizards, the Connecticut Sun making two WNBA Finals, the UConn women winning conference tournaments, and famous musical acts performing such as Billy Joel, Kiss and The Who, the venue has done quite well for itself.
Remarkably, the Thomaston girls basketball team, from a school of only 250 or so students, making four straight championships games there is on that list, too.
Win or lose Saturday, Thomaston had already won.