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Bears say never enough – knock of Northwestern for BL Tournament title

TERRYVILLE – If you are not from the Clocktown and brown and gold aren’t exactly your fashion taste, your Golden Bear basketball fatigue and frustration is understandable. You just want them to fall off the title table and go away and they flat out refuse to cooperate.  Enough is enough.

The names change, the bodies change the Bears insatiable championship charge remains unabated. And so it has remained for 15 seasons. And so it remained Friday night in the Berkshire League Tournament championship game.  

In a battle between the Berkshire League co-champions, it was the Bears who took control early and took home the title late, 49-37, over Northwestern Regional. That’s BL Tournament title No. 9 in the last 14 years if you are counting. If you are not counting, the idea that BL titles go through Thomaston should be somewhere in the realization.

This was a grudge match of sort. The two teams had split games during the regular season and shared the league title. With the state tournament looming neither team was making this the end of the basketball world. As Bears coach Brian Mozelak said prior to the game, “Somebody is going to win and somebody is going to lose. And we both go back to preparing for the tournament Sunday.”

But, you know how the competitive fires breathe. Yeah, we’ll move on but we want the plaque and the belief we are better. Hey, we beat you two out of three.  Bragging rights were out there.

The Bears made their case. Appreciate it. Be frustrated with it if you are an opponent or not a fan but appreciate it. If you are in the Bears’ camp, luxuriate in it. This is a feisty program. You want some, come get some and the Bears train keeps on rolling.

There was a rugged impressiveness to it all. This was one huge part Nicole Decker who tossed in 20 points, including 12 in the first quarter as the Bears opened up a 16-9 lead and never looked back. Decker made this tournament her tournament with a scintillating 26-point performance (18 in the fourth quarter and overtime) in a comeback victory over Gilbert in the semifinals. The MVP chants heard from the Thomaston faithful were more than justified. She made it her time.  

Decker is the Bears’ engine and right there with the best in the BL and beyond. You can’t always tell what she is feeling, there is a stoic persona on the court. But you know what she is doing and it is top quality. Big-time, big-game. Hello Nicole Decker.  

Beyond Decker there was a balance that threw Northwestern off. Payton Mozelak made coach-dad proud and teammates pretty happy with a trio of three-pointers including  a three-point banker off the board to end the third quarter. (No she didn’t call it) but that is not a prerequisite. Two of her bombs came in the second quarter, much needed with the Bears rugged center Ava Harkness on the bench in foul trouble.

Senior Kylie Decker hit a pair of huge three-pointers in the third quarter and Marissa Van Ormer had four points to keep the Highlander defense honest.

“We knew we had to stop Nicole and Eva and you hope the other ones don’t hurt you,” Northwestern coach Fred Williams said. “Tonight their other three players hurt us. They knocked down key shots.”

But maybe the best part of the night was the Bears without the ball. The defense was in suffocation mode, relentless in your face fueled with a no let- up flavor. Northwestern’s outstanding sophomore Maddie Topa (17 points) repeatedly ran into a wall of Bears and was forced into numerous off-balance shots.  It was a claustrophobic existence.

“We came in saying how we’ve won is with our defense,” Brian Mozelak said. “You don’t worry about the offense if your defense is doing the job. “

The Bears led, 28-20, at the half and refused to let the Highlanders make a drama out of it. The lead hit 11 early in the third quarter on a Kylie Decker trey, 31- 20. The lead hit a high of 14 points, 45-31 with five minutes to go and the Bears growled right until the end.

“There were still people not expecting us to win it,” Nicole Decker said. “Some said we’re not the best team. We proved that we were.”

Hard to argue with that. Train roll on. And on. And on. Bathed in victory, tied up in titles. It is who the Golden Bears are.

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