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Remember the Bears ?

POSTED December 11, 2010
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                                    Remember the Bears?

              WINSTED – Remember the Thomaston High girls basketball team? Folks that answered to the names of Brittany and Sciarra Brandt, Morgan Doyle, Lizzie Eberhardt and Steph Keith and ran through Berkshire League a year ago.

            Twenty-games up, twenty-one opponents down. A BL championship and probably a BL Tournament title had winter not forced the cancellation of the tournament title game. Not to mention to a 22-1 final mark

            I’m only asking because maybe the Bears have been a bit forgotten as this season rolls around. Dennis Fowler’s Lewis Mills team led by Amanda Adamski, Katherine Bayne and others has already been coronated as the King of the BL block by fans and press alike. Wamogo is expected to contend with Keri Stolle and Caycee Williams and Nonnewaug has already knocked off Wamogo in the opening game.

            What about the Bears? One-hit title wonders never to be heard from again? Okay, all the players we just mentioned from coach Bob McMahon’s club are gone, graduation taking the entire starting team and six seniors. Let’s face it, the Bears were hammered by diploma day.

            But not so fast. While all seems to point to rebuilding, the Bears kind of said Friday night that you probably should pay attention to the Brown and Gold (okay they wear something called Vegas Gold that looks like beige to me but that is a different story).

            You might not recognize most of the Bears this season without some kind of scorecard but after a gritty if less-than-picturesque 39-35 win over an always-tough Northwestern Regional team in Winsted, you need to take some notice.

            “I think we’re going to surprise some people this season,” noted captain Hannah Martin after the victory.

            I’m thinking maybe you already did, Hannah. Coming away from Northwestern with a win against Fred Williams’ always befuddling match-up zone defense is nothing to dismiss with a short excuse me.

            Clearly this is a different look Bears team and nobody is talking title here, But 2-18 is hardly in the cards either. This is a team that will have to be dealt with. These Bears are Cubs in many ways, a couple saw legitimate action last season, namely Martin and Maggie Eberhardt and Laura Miller but for the most part this is last season’s JV team..

            They are a new unit on a varsity level, are small on the physical level and depth will have to develop. But there is a promising mix of talent, grit and attitude here that is going to play a role in the BL.

            Here’s what we noted against the Highlanders. Martin was a defensive disrupter a season ago with quick pair of hands and pesty demeanor that irritates opponents. That hasn’t changed. After a while you just kind of want to shove her in into the first row if she is hawking you.  She also hauled in several key rebounds late in the game.

            And while the Bears showed some offensive balance and talked about feeling comfortable with everybody contributing to the point total, you couldn’t help notice that sophomore Maggie Eberhardt gave a hint of what could be three special seasons from here on in.

            It was Eberhardt who converted an old-fashioned three-pointer to give the Bears a 29-28 lead late in the third quarter. It was Eberhardt who drained a three-pointer three minutes in to the fourth quarter to put Thomaston ahead, 33-29.

            It was Eberhardt who hit a pair of free throws to up the lead to 37-31 with 2:45 to go. She finished with a game-high 14 points. It was Eberhardt who the team seemed to feel most confident with the ball against the Northwestern press.

            It hardly was a one-man show and Eberhardt would be the first one to tell you that as did McMahon. But, keep watching. She is young, there will inevitably be difficult days. But, you got the idea that this could be the beginning of something special.

            Another notable aspect the Bears threw on the table was freshman Abby Hurlbert. There are big, big bloodlines here, here dad John being former University of Hartford star John Hurlbert who among other things once beat UConn with a pair of foul shots, and her aunt Lisa, a two-time basketball All-Stater and Connecticut Softball Hall of Famer.

            In her first varsity action, she pulled down eight rebounds and gave McMahon and the Bears a big lift off of the bench.

            For long stretches of time, the Bears threw a senior (Martin), three juniors (Hannah Russo,  Kellie Burns, Miller) and a sophomore (Eberhardt) on the floor. They made their share of turnovers but hung in there. It is not last year, but they showed they remember the success of last year.

            You would think this would be a confidence-builder. But McMahon and his crew all said no.

            “I think we had confidence coming in here,” said McMahon.

            So we all can dust off the crown for Mills and watch what kind of move Wamogo and Nonnewaug can make. And how about Housatonic who knocked off Nonnewaug after the Chiefs beat Wamogo.

            But, don’t forget about the Bears. That was their opening game message. Morgan Doyle and Brittany Brandt were in the crowd. They seemed to approve.    



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