Thomaston, Sacred Heart in electric matchup
THOMASTON – This one should grab you interest. If it doesn’t, call the medics and ask them to check your pulse.
Thomaston and Sacred Heart are ready to duke it out tonight (Mon.) at Kennedy High School for a chance to do what every school wants to do but few have the chance to do – play on the final day of the high school basketball season in the final game.
In a matchup that brings an extra buzz to it for a number of reasons, the No. 2 ranked Hearts and No. 3 Bears want to complete the run to Mohegan Sun where the Class S championship will be held next weekend.
Two outstanding teams playing for a chance to win a state title makes for its own bit of magic and drama. But there is more here. The NVL – BL aspect has you wondering and the idea that Sacred Heart coach Ryan Sullivan lives in Thomaston is just another juicy piece to the story.
And it is a game with star power. Thomaston’s Abby Hurlbert and Sacred Heart’s Mikyla Jacobs bring star-studded careers to the venue with the hopes of taking one more step to adding the most coveted resume addition of all, a state title.
Hurlbert has three BL titles, three BL Tournament crowns, scored more than 1,000 points and a host of All-Star awards in a brilliant four-year. Jacobs has also gone over the 1,000-point mark, has earned all-star accolades and led the NVL in scoring this season with a 21.6 average.
In short, this game has it all.
“It’s a cool night for the area,” said Thomaston coach Bob McMahon. “Two leagues on display with what is at stake. It’s special. Sacred Heart is a gritty, city team with a superior talent in terms of Jacobs. It’s going to be awesome. Both teams want it.”
Both teams lose begrudgingly. BL tri-champion and tournament champion Thomaston brings a 20-4 record into the game with the defeats coming by a total of nine points. Two of the losses came to Class M quarterfinalist Lewis Mills. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart (20-5) lost twice to Class M semifinalist Holy Cross and once to Class S semifinalist St. Paul among its losses.
Neither team has any illusions about the other. McMahon has seen the Hearts play twice and knows about Jacobs, an athletic presence who is as good as the Bears have seen all year. There is also Maya Eggleston, a formidable 5-foot-8 presence who scored 15 points against the Bears in the tournament a year ago, playing for Hyde Leadership, a 58-54 Thomaston win.
Eggleston is also coming off of a huge, 20-point, 10-rebound performance in the Hearts 38-33 quarterfinal win over Canton.
“We faced Eggleston last year and she is obviously a handful to deal with,” said McMahon. “The x-factor is Jacobs. She is easily one of the most talented kids we’ll face. She is smooth, she can go to the basket and has a little pull-up game.”
The Hearts have their own concerns. First is Hurlbert who averaged around 18 points a game during the regular season and has been averaging 21 points a game in the tournament. But sophomore Morgan Sanson has been on a roll with two straight 20-point games. And Gabrielle Hurlbert was outstanding last game with 10 points.
Sacred Heart coach Ryan Sullivan knows the Bears go beyond Hurlbert.
“Abby is the heart and soul but a lot of people overlook the fact that they are not a one-man team,” said Sullivan. “Morgan has grown throughout the year and is playing her best ball in the tournament. Gabby is one of those kids that does everything for you. She doesn’t necessarily put up big numbers but at the end of the night has rebounds, assists and a lot of things that don’t show up in the newspaper. She is one of those players that coaches love.”
Completing the Bears starting lineup will be sophomore guard Nicole Schafer and 6-foot freshman Casey Carangelo.
Both teams play lockdown defense. The Hearts will mix and match and the Bears will get in your face with man-to-man. Sullivan in fact says defense may decide the game.
“We’re not a two-man team,” said Sullivan. “We stress defense and you can’t play defense with just two people. “We have number, have girls who pass the ball and they work hard in practice.”
No matter how you slice this one, it has all the earmarks of a beauty. Throw in two jacked up student sections and the Kennedy gym should be rocking.
“Thomaston is a great team and we know we have our work cut out for us,” said Sullivan. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere. Thomaston travels well and has a great student section. It’s St. Patrick’s Day and you have two Irish coaches. What is better than that?”
One time for the Hearts. One more time for the Bears. Get their early, it should be good.