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Ball is in the Bears court now

POSTED February 03, 2012
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                               Ball is in the Bears court now 

            It has been a deliciously murky Berkshire League girls basketball season. The kind of murky that has bred interest and keeps you wondering from night to night and game to game.

            Some nights have belonged to Wamogo. Other nights Nonnewaug has looked like it is on top of the power rankings. Then there are the Thomaston Golden Bears who have demanded that the spotlight shine on them.

            Wamogo rallied from nine points to beat Nonnewaug. Nonnewaug beat Thomaston and then traveled to Golden Bear land and lost. Thomaston beat Wamogo in overtime and then rallied past the Warriors on their own court.

            Long-time coach Fred Williams and his Northwestern Regional team have had a say in the proceedings having knocked off Wamogo.  There has been no pattern, no clarity to it all. The murk and mystery have made the season a first class adventure.

            But, maybe there is evidence that the championship waters are about to clear.  The picture is starting to come into focus. Courtesy of those battling Bears from the Clocktown.

            The Bears just don’t take no for an answer as Wamogo found for the second time this season Wednesday night. Coach Bob McMahon’s team didn’t rally once or twice, but three times in emerging with blue collar 51-47 victory that in long run probably had devastating consequences for the Warriors.

            Trailing the Bears by a game with Nonnewaug still on the horizon, Wamogo desperately needed a victory.  Heck, the incentive was off the charts. There was the standings and the idea of some revenge for an OT loss to the Bears just three weeks prior.

            There was more. The entire first family of BL basketball was in the house with the Stolle contingent ready to break out the roars as the last one to torture the rest of the BL, Wamogo senior Kerri, needed just 14 points to join sisters Tracy and Kristi in the 1,000 point club.

            The Warriors had enough motivation to blow the Bears out of Litchfield. If you were betting man you wouldn’t have been called crazy for seeing the Warriors as a lock. Good thing you aren’t a betting man.

            These Bears don’t buy into all that stuff. They just go out there, get in your face, don’t pay much attention and just annoy the heck out of you with their perseverance. They don’t rattle, they just play.

            The Bears are no surprise this season. That was last year when after losing five starters from the 2010 team that went 20-0 and won the BL title, the team stunned the BL with a 17-3 record. Even coach Bob McMahon didn’t expect that.

            Everybody is back from that team except for defensive stalwart Hannah Martin. So, the Bears didn’t exactly come out of the Thomaston woodwork. Yet, they lost to Nonnewaug early and were handled by SMSA and Coginchaug in out of league games.

            At one point the team was 3-3 and you wondered. Ten straight wins later, wonder no more. The Bears got knocked off their horse and kicked around a little. The response? They got back on the horse and have kicked backed. Hard.

            Nonnewaug with Caitlin Drakeley and Erin Burke and Wamogo with Stolle and Megan Layman may have the bigger stars. The Bears are more a sum of their parts and it was all on display against Wamogo.

            Junior guard Maggie Eberhardt burned the Warriors with four three-pointers and 18 points. In all-around skill she is probably the Bears best player.  A much-needed deft touch for the Bears with a solid ball-handling touch.

            Seniors Laura Miller and Kellie Burns give the Bears some rugged representation under the basket. Miller scored twice on rugged rebound baskets to held rally the Bears against the Warriors.

            Then there is the unarguable emergence of sophomore Abby Hurlbert. There are impressive blood lines here. Dad John once beat UConn with a pair of four shots when playing for the University of Hartford in 1986 and widely considered Thomaston’s finest basketball player ever.

            Aunt Lisa is a Connecticut High School / Collegiate softball Hall of Famer and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds and scored 994 points while earning All-State honors for THS.

            Now it is Abby’s time and she is beginning emerge as a major force in the BL. Six of the team’s final 11 points including a fatal 3-pointer with 1:36 to left to put Thomaston ahead for good. The idea of pressure just doesn’t register.

            Hurlbert ended up with 18 points, all coming off a 16-point effort against Nonnewaug the previous game, much of the damage coming in the final minutes.  As Stolle said, ‘She is one to watch.”

            But the Bears best display might have been there personality. It is a team that doesn’t get rattled. Down by nine points twice and six with four minutes to go, they just keep coming. No big deal.

            After falling behind in the third quarter by nine points, McMahon called a timeout and reamed his team pretty good. They regrouped and had a one point lead by the fourth quarter. The Bears played a multitude of close games a year ago and one every single one except for one.

            It is a situation that seems to bring out the best of them. They know how to win.

            So this is where we are.  Four games left with Nonnewaug a game behind. Three wins and the Bears are insured a share of the title. Four wins and they cut the nets down for the second time in three years.

            Northwestern and Lewis Mills are two of the four games. Nothing is easy. But, the Bears are in control of their own destiny. Suddenly, the murky waters that have made for such a wild season are starting to clear and the Bears are closing in on the finish line.

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