Thomaston's run to the finals is a family affair. By John Nestor
These three Thomaston girls basketball players (left to right) Morgan Sanson, Abby Hurlbert and Gabby Hurlbert are not only key parts to the Golden Bears Mohegan Sun bound team, they are also cousins. John Nestor has the story.
THOMASTON - A team can become a family during the course of the season, that's especially true of a good team and even more so for the Thomaston Bears.
For Abby Hurlbert, Gabby Hurlbert and Morgan Sanson, Saturday will be special because they won't only have their Golden Bears family behind them, they'll also have each other.
Abby, a junior, and Gabby are sisters and Sanson is their cousin. They are related through a pair of Thomaston sports legends in Lisa and John Hurlbert and are establishing themselves as the latest in a long line of Thomaston sports stars from the family.
Abby has been doing it for a while, a standout in field hockey, basketball and softball and Gabby has become a big part of the Bears hoops team this season as a freshman. Their dad, John, is considered one of the finest basketball players Thomaston has ever produced and he went on to play at the University of Hartford.
Sanson's mom Lisa is in the Connecticut High School and College Softball Hall of Fame and was also a standout basketball player, recording 994 career points with 1,014 rebounds.
With those bloodlines it's no surprise that the Hurlbert sisters and Sanson have become standouts on the court for the Bears. It seems like it was destiny and they got started on making it happen early.
"We've been playing together since we were little, as long as I can remember," Abby said. "We did Slamma Jamma Camps together, travel, rec. We've been playing together for a while."
All thos years polaying together have now really paid off. The Bears will face Capital Prep in the Class S state title game on Saturday morning at Mohegan Sun.
Championship week really got going Wednesday at the AquaTurf Club with the CIAC press conference and having family on the team has made the experience a extra special.
"I love it, Playing with them is so easy because I am so used to it and I just love having them on the team," Abby said.
And Gabby and Sanson have loved it too. Not only do they have someone close to share the experience with but they also came into the porgram having a veteran presence in their corner that they could rely on.
"It's nice to have someone you can really count on because you know each other so well, Sanson said. "Abby has been a real role model and always good to talk to."
The familiarity helped when the season started because Gabby and Sanson had some idea what to expect. They were coming into a program that had won the BL title - both
regular season and tournament - two of the previous three seasons. The Bears weren't about rebuilding as much as reloading and Sanson and Gabby have become big parts of the team's success, with Sanson earning a spot in the starting lineup. The years of experience together have also paid off in games. It takes time to build up trust and confidence in your teammates and this trio has had a head start.
"We've been playing together for so long that we all know each others strengths and weaknesses," Gabby said. "We know what each other can do and that's a big help."
At this point of the season, 25 games in, Gabby and Sanson can hardly be considered freshmen any more, especially with the long list of big games they have played in, especially over the last few weeks. Now they are important parts of a team trying to win a championship.
"All three of them are a special part to this team," said senior guard Maggie Eberhardt. "It's been good for them because they have each other and it has helped each one of them this season."
But it's not always one big happy family time. Anyone with siblings knows how it is, and that rivalry sometimes creates some competition on the practice court.
"They can be competitive toward each other, Gabby and Abby go at each other in practice all the time," Eberhardt said. "They are very competitive players and Morgan is the sweetest girl you'll ever want to me but when she gets mad during games, she gets really competitive, it's great to see."
Eberhardt has a special insight to what the Hurlbert's and Sanson are going through because she also knows what it's like to share this experience with family.
Eberhardt's sister Charlie comes off the bench for the Bears and has played a key role in this season's success while being able to lean on her big sister from time to time.
"I think it has helped her a lot, coming from eighth grade just having someone on the team to rely on," Maggie said. "I know it helped me a lot when I was a freshman, having my older sister to lean on, she helped me a lot and just having that person on the team in case there is drama. It's always good to have that older sibling there for you."