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Golden Bears, Chief's in Berkshire League Finals on Friday.

POSTED February 25, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

The Thomaston girls moved on to the BL finals thanks to a 52-35 win over Housatonic. Charlie Eberhardt (15) defends Mountaineer guard Chelsea Kearns (24) in second half action.

WINSTED: They are both the defending Berkshire League Tournament and Class S State Champions, these Thomaston Golden Bears.

Once again they will be playing on Friday night for a shot at yet another crown but make no mistake about it: this is a different team from the one that made that magical run right to and through Mohegan Sun.

The Bears out-skilled a valiant Housatonic team who will make some noise over the next few years with a young group who is not quite ready for prime time yet as they dropped a 52-35 decision to Thomaston.

Nonnewaug, the only Berkshire League team to send the Bears home without a win this year, will get another crack at them on Friday after dispensing of a short-handed Lewis Mills team by a 39-31 final in the opener Tuesday night.

Now you might say, of course this is a different Bears team than last year after they lost their number one star, Abby Hurlbert to graduation and replacing that type of player is never easy.

True, Thomaston returns four starters to the floor who left nothing on the floor when the 2013-2014 campaign came to a close but although they posted a 17-3 record and sport as many fearless players as any team you’ll find out there (Can’t Kill the Bear and all) they will need to find a bit more consistency in their game if they hope to duplicate last season.

Against a team that came in with a 10-10 record, the champs both excelled and frustrated at alternating times on Tuesday. One moment their trapping defense was leading to a fast 8-0 start, the next the Mountaineers were shredding said press while closing the gap to just 11-9 late in the opening quarter.

A year ago, when in doubt, the Bears could always look to Hurlbert when they needed a big bucket or a one person spurt.

Heck, Hurlbert used to look annoyed at times when things were not going as planned and would simply take over when she felt she had to.

This year’s team does not have that player or to date, that player has not stepped up to take the baton on a consistent basis.

Of the returners, junior Morgan Sanson (12 points) is skilled and can dominate inside when her game is on while sophomore Casey Carangelo (15 points) is usually the tallest player on the floor and can also score at will at times inside.

Gabby Hurlbert has continued to make herself one hard-nosed basketball player, who like the rest of them, simply hates losing.

Junior Nicole Schaefer hit many a key three pointer in big spots last year and may be called upon to do the same as play leaves a weak Berkshire League and heads out into the world of the states.

Who will be the go-to scorer for this team? They are a team built to run and score in transition and they sometimes struggle in the half-court game, as they did at times against Housatonic.

Sophomore Julia Quinn, who sat out a year ago due to injury, seems to have the ability to hit the long ball, she found the bottom of the net three times to account for her nine points.

Having an outside threat will be an important piece of the puzzle for the Bears going forward.

The champs will also have to do better job at the charity stripe as well down the road. On Tuesday, the Bears connected on just 7 of 19 free throws.

For the Chief’s, they slushed their way through a 39-31 win over a Spartans team that was without standout senior Natalie Ruel, who was out with an ankle injury.

Nonnewaug took charge off a pair of three pointers by Deanna Maurice in the third quarter to go up for good and a personal 6-0 run by Courtney Carlson (15 points) that was spurred by an aggressive trap defense.

The squad from Woodbury got by the Bears by a nose the last time they met on January 30 in a 51-50 victory and will look to knock the defending champs off the BL seat when they meet up Route 8 on Friday night.

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