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Let the dream season begin

POSTED February 26, 2012
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                          Let the dream season begin

           This is the glorious time of the basketball season. Just when all the gyms start looking the same, the season seems to have started about six years ago and the powerful urge to get outside begins to overwhelm along comes tournament time.

            It starts with the league tournaments and does a fast track into the state tournament. The heart starts pumping again and the adrenalin rush goes into overdrive.  This is the fun time. Late February and the high school version of March madness takes a back seat to nothing during the high school year.

            The girls kick it off first and gave us a couple of memorable league tournaments. Holy Cross and Torrington put on a heck of a show in the NVL before the Crusaders managed to escape with a 57-54 victory adding another title to a seemingly endless cache of NVL crowns at Kennedy High School Wednesday night.

            Meanwhile at Wamogo, the irrepressible Thomaston Bears held off Wamogo for a third time this season Friday night, 49-41, to add the BL Tournament championship to an already won BL title.

            Now we move into the state tournament, always a bittersweet time that starts with the sweet dream of a state title and ends in bitter reality for all but four teams that will walk home with state titles.  For seniors the end is at hand in this one-and-done world. It is an emotional time, tears and joys fighting for top billing.

            THOMASTON’S lofty No. 3 ranking in Class S certainly did not insure an easy draw. After a first round bye, the BL champion Bears will host the winner of No. 14 Saybrook (13-7) and No. 19 Lyman Memorial (12-8) Friday night.

            Tough Shoreline Conference foes. Should the Bears get by their opener, looming in the horizon and probable opponent is old friend, old enemy,  No. 6 Portland (15-5). These teams know one another well and the memories are not good ones for the Bears.

            Two seasons ago the top-ranked and undefeated Bears saw hopes of a state title crushed when Portland erased a 13-point deficit and went on to earn a spot in the state championship game where it lost to St. Paul by a point.

Last season, this time on its own court, the Highlanders beat the Bears again on its way to a state title. This time the Bears get the Highlanders on their court and they have long memories. But they have to get their first.

All season long the Bears have won by committee. Maggie Eberhardt, Abby Hurlbert, Laura Miller, Kellie Burns and Sydney Keith have all taken turns stepping up, making the Bears a tough team to defend.  Meanwhile the defense has been blue collar, top-notch.

Sitting atop Class S is Coginchaug a team that defeated Thomaston earlier and easily in the year. Clearly, the Bears have a tough road, but they have been a tough team.

TORRINGTON came within a couple of plays of knocking off Holy Cross for the NVL championship. It is a team that has grown tremendously during the season. If the Raiders can follow up their performance against the Crusaders and overcome some tournament letdowns that have plagued them in the past, some damage could be done In Class L.

The No. 5 Red Raiders (19-4) tackle the winner of Hand-Madison (13-7) and Bunnell (10-10) in its opener. The probable second round matchup is against No. 4 Berlin (17-3).   The state’s top-ranked team, E.O. Smith (20-0) is No. 1 in a field that includes No. 3 Pomperaug.

Senior forward Aly Otis has had a terrific season for the Raiders while 6-foot-1 Caycee Williams is an option most teams don’t have. The Raiders will need to be firing on all cylinders but have the potential to surprise.

Back to the BL and No. 5 WAMOGO has an interesting draw and situation. The Warriors should get by first round opponent No. 28 Goodwin Tech (8-12) with either No. 12 Morgan (13-7) or No. 21 Bolton (12-8) waiting in Round two.

Here’s the catch. The Warriors BL All-Star Megan Layman leaves for Coast Rica as part of a two-week school trip after the Goodwin Tech game.

“What can I say, I recommended her for the trip,” said Warrior coach Kevin Crowley with a bittersweet smile.

 The Warriors have one of the area’s very best guards in Kerri Stolle and some solid support but how far they can go without the services of the valuable Layman remains to be seen.

No. 15 WOLCOTT TECH (13-7) is coming off of its finest season ever and making its first state appearance ever. Breanna Bodnar has had a superb season averaging almost 20 points a game for coach Brian Hurlock’s Wildcats.

Unfortunately for Wolcott Tech they play old BL foe, SHEPAUG Valley, in a rematch of a regular season game won easily by the Spartans.  No. 2 Capital Prep lies ahead in the next round for the winner. You figure it out.

NONNEWAUG opens up Class M action against No. Seymour (9-12) in one of those interesting Berkshire League-NVL matchups. The No. 4 Chiefs (19-3) have a formidable one-two punch in superb guard Caitlin Drakeley and forward Katie Burke.

The Chiefs, who lost twice to Wamogo and once to Thomaston during the regular season, should have enough to handle the Wildcats especially with All-NVL Christina Cretella hampered by a knee injury suffered in the NVL Tournament and her availability questionable.

Should the Chiefs get by Seymour a possible second round matchup could be against another NVL foe No. 13 Wolcott (14-6) who plays No. 20 Sheehan (12-8) in the opening round. The Eagles lost to Watertown for the NVL’s Brass Division trophy and have an up and comer in sophomore Chelsea Houlihan.

However, Nonnewaug probably has more talent here. Down the road is No. 5 Cromwell who just knocked off previously once-beaten Coginchaug for the Shoreline title.

No. 16 NORTHWESTERN REGIONAL (14-8) hosts No. 17 Ledyard (13-5) in the opener. There will be no rewards for the victor. Next up unless a monumental upset takes place in the state’s No. 6 ranked team, Weaver.  Good luck here.

In Class L action, No. 6 WATERTOWN, the NVL’s Brass Division champions will tangle with the winner of East Lyme (13-6) and Brook field (9-11).  No. 3 Bacon Academy looms down the road should the Indians advance.

NAUGATUCK (12-8) gets a first round matchup with Windsor (11-9) and No. 1 E.O. Smith is next on the agenda.

The dreaming began a long time ago. Let the games begin and good luck to all.

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