2011 Year in Review. March 10. Mills girls prove it once again; they are the real deal.
BURLINGTON-Do you think girls basketball teams around the State of Connecticut have gotten the message?
The one that finally puts to rest that the Lewis Mills girls basketball team is a Berkshire League school that sports an inflated record?
Once again seizing on the underdog mentality that has served them tremendously in the states to date, the Spartans beat a high octane, high energy Kolbe Cathedral team by a 61-58 while proving once again that playing in their gym is one extreme advantage.
How big was this win? It hopefully lays to rest all those lame claims teams from this area hear come tournament time. Great record, great seeding, knocked out in the first round.
Mills (25-0) road the unstoppable determination of their star, Amanda Adamski, who scored a game high 25 points, to a win that puts them one victory away from the ultimate goal of a state finals appearance.
The Spartans respected the Cougars coming in but did not fear them.
Point guard Nicole Bisson face relentless pressure from a fast and aggressive full court press that started when Kolbe got off the bus.
Bisson distinguished herself to a level reserved for only the top players at this time of the year by working tirelessly to the ball over half court.
The atmosphere in Burlington was electric for the final appearance of their Spartans on their own court and Adamski, for one, was not going to waste the chance to go out on top.
“There is no way we wanted to leave our gym for the final times as seniors with a loss,” Adamski said, “This is our home and we play great here.”
Mind you, the Cougars plays at a speed the Spartans had not even dreamed about this season.
They come at the ball handler with fierce, in your face determination. Every possession was challenged from the moment the ball came inbound.
Cougar senior Cherelle Moore, who will be attending the University of Hartford next fall on a full basketball scholarship, was clearly the best player on the court and the one that demanded the most attention.
That job fell to junior Kristen Van Gilst early on and the Van Gilst was more than up to the challenge.
Considering the blistering pace each team played in the first eight minutes on Thursday night, Mills was happy to go to the break tied at 14 but needed to change their game plan back to what always worked for them all season.
“We were kind of playing at their pace,” Adamski said, “We had to slow it down a little and play our style of offense.”
It worked as the second quarter began and the home team went on a 9-0 run highlighted by five points by Adamski, a sweet lefty hook by Van Gilst and a drive by Katherine Bayne.
The home team would go to the break up 35-25 but were fully aware of what might happen in the second half if they let up one bit.
Sure enough, after being down 45-33 following a Van Gilst (10 points) three pointer, the Cougars upped the heat to surface-of-the-sun-hot on the defense and it started to wear on the Spartans.
Strangely enough, Kolbe started to create turnovers in bunches with their star on the bench with three fouls.
A lightning fast backcourt of two freshman, Kiara Epps and Erica Cohens, began a 9-3 run that chipped away at the Mills lead.
Would the heat finally get to the weary Spartans?
They would be tested for certain as the momentum clearly shifted as the fourth quarter began with the home team clinging to a 49-43 lead.
Four straight turnovers, capped by a Moore floater in the lane, gave the visitors their first lead since the first quarter and you had to wonder if the Spartans had run out of gas.
Gut check time. Two things occurred next.
First, fouls put the home team at the line with almost four minutes left in the game and Adamski gave her team a lead they would not give back with two free throws.
Next, with her team clinging to a one point lead at 51-50, Bisson did what she had done all season, she drained a dagger three pointer that made it a two possession game the rest of the way.
It was the Mills defenses turn to step up and they did just that, holding the Cougars to just two baskets in the last three minutes.
“I could name five or six tremendous things each of my players did out there tonight,” head coach Dennis Fowler said, “This team just doesn’t know how to give up. It starts with the seniors and works it’s way down. They all played great tonight.”
So it’s off to the semi-finals and a date with No. 21 Weaver on Monday night at a site to be determined.
Bet they aren’t going to take the Spartans lightly.