By Rick Wilson
THOMASTON – Call it standard preparation. They had the scissors. The ladder was ready. There were extra nets in the drawer. And oh of course Queen was ready with their ode to the best “We are the Champions.” If you expected anything less then you haven’t been paying any attention to the Thomaston High girls basketball program. For the last decade or so.
Everything was in place for an appropriate championship celebration and why not. Practice makes perfect and the Golden Bears have had plenty of practice. They have this celebration thing down pat.
The 2021-22 version of the Golden Bears added one more title to the rapidly running out of space banner on the wall with a 60-37 victory over Gilbert Tuesday night. For the number crunchers that’s two in a row and eight championships in 11 years. Let’ just throw in 29 straight BL wins for good measure. For all, that’s a long journey past impressive.
This edition of the Bears shares a lot with the past. Mainly being Thomaston and oh does that mean something and carry something with it. But like all teams this group has their own identity, their own style. Teams take different roads to the top. These are the balanced Bears. They have been a pick your poison group.
On some nights vastly improved senior Emma Sanson has taken the lead like her 21 points in a 48-41 overtime win over Northwestern. She is rolling left-handed thunder to the hoop and is going out in style. Then there is her senior playing partner Aurelia Barker who has changed complexion of games with her off-the-shoulder three-pointers. A quintet of treys against Terryville and some early long-range accuracy that helped subdue Northwestern the first time around.
Savy sophomore point guard Nicole Decker drained five free throws down the stretch to help subdue Housatonic and tossed in 17 points in the win over Gilbert. Nicole’s sister, Kylie, has also proved to be a major contributor with a you-better-pay-attention to outside shot. She nailed a couple of three-pointers against Gilbert to quell some momentum the Yellowjackets were building.
Sophomore Ava Harkness has been a force under the basket with a number of double-digit games. Off the bench Kiera Fainer has tossed in some key three-pointers including a crucial one in overtime against Northwestern. Payton Mozelak has become a three-point specialist and has surprised some teams including Nonnwaug where she hit a couple of daggers. Marissa VanOrmer has become a viable threat.
The Bears have been a handful to defend, there is nobody to focus on. It is not a team that can be shut down by shutting down one or two players. They all have had their moments.
“Our numbers 1-8 I feel fully confident in,” said Bears coach Bob McMahon. “Whoever is on the floor there is a team effort – off the backboards, handling the ball…..Everyone gets there share of shots. There’s a lot of balance. “
This team’s special identity also lives off the foundation that is being Thomaston. While the Bears were expected to be in the running for the title this year, going undefeated at this point (13-0 BL, 14-3) and winning the title going away may not have been on everybody’s card.
While other teams have deal with the loss of key players due to ACL injuries(Northwestern, Nonnewaug) and Covid-19 issues, the Bears had their own issues. What do you do when you graduate the league’s best player (Emma Kahn) and your top two scorers and rebounders not to mention tallest players Kahn and Sydney Eggleton (prep school)?
You be Thomaston.
“I expected (this year) to be the same thing,” said Sanson. “We always grew up thinking we’d be here. We lost some players and we gained some players.”
“We fully expected to be here,” said McMahon. “We lost some players, but we had two seniors (Sanson, Barker) who have been through it together. When we started the goal was to get back here.”
“We persevered,” added Barker.
When you win titles you think titles. That’s ingrained in Thomaston now. They believe. The name on the uniform now stands for what we are not just who we are. When they take the court now the name is the visible sixth man. One opposing player made a comment this season that she didn’t like playing Thomaston. When asked why she said, “Because they are always good and they give us trouble.” One coach said, “I don’t know how they keep doing it.” It gets into the head.
On the court, another continuation of the past is the defense. The Bears halfcourt trap is No. 1 on the BL’s irritation meter. It ramps the game up to a pace most don’t want to play and many struggle to handle. Turnovers have come in abundance.
“(Thomaston) has people to utilize its speed and if you are not used to it’s aggravating and a problem,” said Hicks. “We don’t see a lot of that in the league. It kind of overwhelms. “
So mix up some Thomaston tradition with a balanced attack and what do you have? One more time. The Bears title train rolls on.