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Mills, Thomaston girls advance to BL Tournament Finals

POSTED February 25, 2014
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn

WINCHESTER - Lewis Mills got some revenge against Housatonic while Thomaston beat Nonnewaug for the third time this season as the Spartans and Bears advanced to the Berkshire League Girls Basketball Tournament Finals with wins Tuesday night.

Thomaston opened the semifinal doubleheader with a 51-42 victory over Nonnewaug and Mills followed with a 55-36 victory over Housatonic at Northwestern Regional.

The Bears, Chiefs and Spartans all tied for the BL regular season title and now Thomaston and Lewis Mills will play for the BL Tournament title for the second straight season on Firday night at Northwestern.

Nicole Schaefer scored 15 points to lead Thomaston. Schaefer hit four 3-pointers, including one at the buzzer to end the third quarter, and Abby Hurlbert added 14 for the Bears.

Only three Nonnewaug players scored in this one led by Jess Fengler with 19 points. Courtney Carlson had 17 points and Megan Mitchell added six of the Chiefs, who will next play in the Class LL state tournament.

Before Thomaston tries to make another run at a Class S state title it will get a third shot at Mills. The Spartans have won the two regular season meetings but the teams have not met in almost a month. Mills won by four at home to open the season and by one at Thomaston on Jan. 14.

Both teams will enter Firday's title game at 17-4 and the Bears have won 10 in a row since that one-point loss at home to the Spartans.

"it's always a battle when we play Thomaston and it will be again Friday night," Mills senior Teagan Dunn said. "We are two evenly matched teams and neither one backs down so it will be a tough game."

Dunn scored 20 points and junior guard Natalie Ruel gave the Spartans a lift with 13 points. Mills' starting point guard and one of its best shooters, Ruel had been out with a knee injury since a 49-41 victory over Housatonic on Jan. 17. She played about five minutes in the regular season finale win over Terryville but looked back to her old self against the Mountaineers.

"It felt good to be out there helping my team win," Ruel said. "Coming back and being able to handle the ball and play point guard opened things up for other players."

Mills led 25-22 at the break but clamped down on Housatonic in the second half. The Mountaineers went cold and were limited to one shot most possessions while Ruel and Dunn got things going for the Spartans. Ruel hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second half and Dunn had 11 points over the final two quarters as the Spartans outscored the Mountaineers 30-14 in the second half.

"Natalie had a lot more gas in the tank than I thought she would," Housy coach Frank Hadsell said. "We tried to tire her out a little with a box and one but the main thing was rebounding. We didn't make a lot of shots and they controlled the boards. It's hard to win a game that way."

Housatonic (14-8) next plays in the Class S Tournament while Mills has a chance to lay claim to the best team in the BL title if it can beat Thomaston for a third time this season.

"It will be a tough game, Thomaston is a much improved team from the beginning of the season when we played them," Mills coach Joe Capitani said. "It was a battle the first two times we played them and I don't expect it to be any different Friday night."

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