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2013 Season in Review. March. A ride to remember; a season to savor. Thomaston girls BB finals run.

POSTED December 19, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                    A ride to remember, a season to savor

            THOMASTON –The bigger leather sphere has given way to the smaller, harder projectiles. The baskets in the gym have been raised as sliding and throwing are now the thing until the hoped for last remnants of winter disappear And so it is done.

But forgive the Thomaston Bears if they choose to tarry a moment longer in the glow of the just completed season. A four-month odyssey that evokes a tear (or many), a big Golden Bear smile, sense of fulfillment for a special journey, a hollow feeling of emptiness for its ending.

            There is that warm feeling for the journey and it is all about the journey in the long run. And that wistful sense of trying to hang on to something that has been deemed done by the relentless march of time.

            The Thomaston High girls basketball team gave us a wonderful ride, didn’t it? A magic carpet thriller that had enough room for the whole town. A ride that ended up where all high basketball lifetime memories become infinite moments.

            Start with “The Cave’ the wonderfully creative and supportive body of student bodies that lit up the THS gym almost as well as the team it was rooting for and then made a loud statement at Mohegan Sun on championship Saturday.

            The white-outs, black-outs and the chants. “I believe. I believe that we will win.” That still resonates in the subconscious.

            Three busloads of THS students made the trek to Mohegan Sun, more than the a third of the school. Three busloads of students armed with load of school pride no trailer was big enough to haul.  All season long there were ringleaders here but nobody more brown and gold than senior Kyle Guisto. Take a bow Kyle. You and your band of boisterous Bears were unmatched.

            But it hardly ended there. There were signs in the Clocktown’s grocery store touting the Bears and Tony Turina, who led the Torrington High boys to the Class L state title in 2006 and owns Tony’s Coffee Shop, will tell you that this team was all his customers talked about during the Run to the Sun.

            “They talked about them like they were their daughters or granddaughters,” Turina told me. That’s touching a town, folks.

            There were fire trucks and an ambulance to see them off along with a bunch of current and future champions, the Thomaston Trotters. There was a fire truck to welcome the team back after its 84-55 loss to Capital Prep.

            A citizen paid for the team’s rooms so they could make the trek to Mohegan Sun Friday instead of having to do an early riser for Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. start. It is not corny to say that the town and the school fell in love with this team.

            The THS gym rocked the night away in wins over Nonnewaug and Lewis Mills and throughout the tournament. In the BL Tournament title game against the Spartans, the only seat left was in the coach’s office and the court-storming and net-cutting spoke of the specialness of it all.

               In an era of the half-bleacher scene, this team offered a championship show that you couldn’t miss and if you did, well, your loss. Where were you and was it worth it?

               For two straight years, Lyman Memorial coach Jeff Gaucher has brought his team toh Thomaston  from a long way away and seen his season end in Thomaston in the state tournament. He has every reason not to want to come back. Yet, he saw a lot of reasons to come back.

               “The atmosphere here is fantastic,” he said. “It’s great to come in to a gym that is packed and see kids with school spirit. I don’t mind coming here at all. I would love to come back.”

                The Bears were one, weren’t they Support fueled the team and team fueled the support. The Bears won and they won close games. Only Northwestern dented the record.

                They were blue collar Bears. Rarely pretty, always gritty. And almost always winners. Maggie Eberhardt, 5-foot-3 inches of big time, played her way on to the THS wall while earning a permanent place in the memory banks. Big games all over, 1,103 career points. She always had the edge.

                 Abby Hurlbert, right alongside Eberhardt, the opponent’s nightmare. All you need to know about Hurlbert was on display in the championship game – 28 points, 10 rebounds. Ask Capital’s highly touted 6-foot-1 center Kiah Gillespie about Hurlbert. You’ll get a snarl because Hurlbert gave her eyeful. An armful. A gamefull. Hurlbert gave her game.

               Sydney Keith who saved the best basketball for the last month of the season. Freshman Morgan Sanson showed a senior toughness and Gabrielle Hurlbert who just seems oblivious to all that is around her except playing the game. Bryttnie Thomas whose passion for the game is always there.

                Then there was coach Bob McMahon. He has taught a disdain for losing to this team. He gets texts from players from several years ago. They will go to the wall for him and then through the wall. And oh how they hate to lose. With his assistants, Tony Geraci, Bill Ryan and Kelly Finlay, it is a championship core.

           Nobody gave the Bears a chance against Capital and they loved it. They did not spend the week complaining about the idea that this team has no business in Class S. It was what it was and they went out and played the game

           And we loved it all. The little school with the big game. The only area team boys or girls to get beyond the quarterfinals.

            Last week we were caught in in a strange position. We all loved the anticipation and all that it involved. We were proud, and nervous, we reveled in where we were and where we were going. We couldn’t wait until Saturday.

           Finally Saturday rolled around and the electricity escorting the team’s appearance at Mohegan Sun was off the voltage meter. The big day had arrived. But you didn’t want the journey to end. So much did we want to be here. But, oh, we could only put the clock on pause and stop time.

           We couldn’t. But we have the experience. We lived in the moment so we can relive the moment. We have much to cling to. Sydney Keith spoke eloquently and from the heart at the dinner for the finalists last Wednesday at the AquaTurf.  Nobody has said it better about what it has been all about.

           Listen to her parting lines.

         “If we succeed, we succeed together and if we fail we fail together. That’s how Thomaston basketball works. I can’t ever explain how grateful I am to be not only part of this team, but part of this program as well. Even to have such a program in such a small town.

            The whole experience has brought our town together. We play for Thomaston. We play for our small town, our small community and our small school, but mostly we play for each other. Because without every single person on this team, there is no way we would be here.

           I’m sure our team will never forget every time coach told not to talk about Mohegan Sun, every time he told to run away whenever someone mentioned it. No ignoring it now. We made it.’

           The Bears gave Capital, the state’s No. 1 team, notice they were there. It was the Trailblazers second closest game of the year in Connecticut. At the end of the championship game, the Bears carried Eberhardt and Keith, the two seniors on their shoulders. Not the norm when you are on the losing end of a 29-point game for the state title.

            Why? Because they got it. This wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about the pride of being a Bear and a salute to their two seniors. As Keith said, the Bears had made it.

            There were tears when the finality of it all set in. But the tears were about the ending, not how it ended. There was no more road to travel. But the ride, oh the ride, it will last a lifetime.

            A team and a town and a season to savor.  Man, it was good.

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