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Bears hope to stay golden

POSTED December 11, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                         Bears hope to stay golden


            THOMASTON – The goal every year is to get better isn’t it? To take it up one more notch. To improve. Well, in almost all cases. For the Thomaston High girls basketball team, it wouldn’t mind staying the same.

            Before you get carried away into thinking the Bears are in love with mediocrity or that they don’t care, go back to last season and remember. A third Berkshire League title in four seasons followed by a second BL Tournament crown during the same time span.

            Then the sumptuous desert – a romp through the Class S field to the state title game at Mohegan Sun for the fourth time in school history. The Bears, despite a game effort, were handled by the state’s No. 1 team, Capital Prep, 84-55.

            But it didn’t matter, this was a banner season for a team and town. And so where do you go from there? A repeat would be nice. In this case staying the same would be almost perfect.

            There is potential to continue the excellence the program has produced the last four seasons. There is a big-time player, more than a touch of experience with three returning starters and the pride a powerful program has produced.

            And, like in all seasons, some obvious questions that will have to be answered as the season progresses.

             Probably the best player in the Berkshire League wears the brown and gold. All-BL and All-State, rugged 5-foot-9 senior Abby Hurlbert will have much to say about the Bears’ fortunes. Hurlbert can play all three positions, go inside and outside and handled the ball.

            In short, she is the total package. Fifth in the BL in scoring with a 14.3 average, Hurlbert made the state aware of her skills when she threw a 28-point, 10 rebound performance against Capital Prep and their highly touted 6-foot1 center Kiah Gillespie in the state final.

            Clearly, the multi-sport all-star, will be the Bears focal point. But, it doesn’t stop there. Hurlbert’s cousin, 5-foot-9 sophomore Morgan Sanson is coming off of a productive campaign where she was a major force off the boards. A little maturity in the offensive game and teams will find her difficult to defend.

            Senior center Bryttnie Thomas (5-foot-10) gives the Bears a formidable front line and should make life difficult for the opposition.

            Coach Bob McMahon received some major contributions from 5-foot-9 sophomore Charlotte Eberhardt and 5-foot-7 sophomore Gabrielle Hurlbert last season and the twosome is ready to contribute on a more consistent basis this season with more playing time.

            Senior Sarah Guay adds some depth in the backcourt as does sophomore Nicole Schafer. A player to keep an eye on as the season progresses is 6-foot freshman Casey Carangelo. Time and experience could make her a factor.

            Hurlbert and a team that should be able to rebound the basketball along with the experience factor should put the Bears in solid position to contend for the title. But there is a bit of the elephant in the room.

            Simply put, there is no No. 22 around anymore and that raises more than a couple of questions and concerns. Maggie Eberhardt, who carried that No. 22 around on her back with brilliance while scoring, 1,103 career points is now doing her thing at Post University.

            Eberhardt led the Berkshire League in scoring with an 18.7 average, with a penchant for three-pointers and the ability to go to the basket.

            But the value was more with when she scored opposed to how many she scored. As with this year, the Bears biggest challenge a year ago came from Lewis Mills and Nonnewaug.  Eberhardt scored 46 points in the two games against Mills and 53 in the pair against the Chiefs. She had 24 in the Class S semifinals against East Windsor.

            You expect Hurlbert to fill a good part of that void. But somebody is going to have to step forward to open up some things for Hurlbert who will get her share of attention. Teams picked their poison a year ago, where is the other dose of poison coming from?

            Let us also not forget that guard Sydney Keith saved her career best basketball for the final three weeks of the season and is also long gone.

            So, the offense will be the challenge. Where are the points coming from and who are they coming from? If the Bears can figure that out, doing the same will be just fine this time around.  

            In the meantime, Mills feels like it is their time again and coach Adam Brutting’s Nonnewaug club should be right there.  And there is no waiting. Thomaston at Mills tonight. Nothing is decided the first game of the season but somebody is going to come out of the game feeling pretty good.

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