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Royals, Kackowski, Pietrefase and Christiano. A legacy of winning basketball for Torrington in girls hoops.

POSTED March 29, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

The four seniors of the 2010-2011 Torrington girls basketball team, who were celebrated during the Raiders end of season banquet, held at Fairview Farms Country Club on Sunday night. From left to right- Sarah Royals, Brittany Kackowski, Gena Pietrefase and Taylor Christiano.

HARWINGTON-I’ve got to be honest with you. Sometimes an after season banquet in any sport can be a chore. Long speeches followed by longer ones and so on

Somehow though, I knew going to see the 2010-2011 Torrington girls basketball team hold their banquet to say goodbye to four special seniors would be different.

After all, I had followed each of the four over their years on the hardwood and saw them grow up before my eyes into a team that made it to within a game of the Class L State Championship game this past season.

The Raiders posted a remarkable 23-3 record and bonded in a way that can only happen in high school sports.

Talent? There was plenty being honored for the last time by family and friends with a slew of returning players who will continue to keep head coach Mike Fritch busy for years to come.

The four seniors, Sarah Royals, Brittany Kackowski, Gena Pietrefase and Taylor Christiano, leave behind a tremendous winning legacy and even more importantly, will most certainly translate that legacy into a boundless future.

“This group started as 11 players but only four stayed all four years,” Fritch said, “They played in 170 games and posted an amazing 144-26 record in their time on the court. That’s a pretty special record they should all be very proud of.”

The star of the team has, of course, been Royals who leaves as the Raiders all-time leading scorer with 1605 points in a career that featured limited freshman minutes.

Orange shoes are not the only thing Torrington fans will miss. No one will ever forget the half court shot against Holy Cross that went berserk on the internet but will also remember a player who had the poise to hit the free throw that won the game.

For a reporter, Royals has always been a pleasure to cover since she broke on the scene as a freshman four years back.

Never afraid to talk after a win or a loss, those skills will serve her well as she heads off to become the second Division I player to come out of Torrington in the past three years (Jordan Williams, University of Maryland in 2009).

The University of Albany will become her new home in the fall, a full scholarship ride is an amazing accomplishment for this gifted athlete and a tribute to the hard work her family, coaches and Royals herself have put in since she picked up a basketball at a very early age.

Royals and Fritch have always had an interesting relationship. Fritch was hard on Royals; Royals responded by becoming a better player each season and the rewards have flooded in as a result.

The riggers of playing D-I basketball will demand even more from Royals but if anyone doubts this kids resolve, they haven’t been watching.

Kackoswki, who will be attending the University of Massachusetts this fall, was a hard nosed player who became feared around the Naugatuck Valley League for her take-no-prisoners approach to everything she did on the court.

Never know as an offensive force, Kackowski worked hard to improve her game each time out and by her senior year, could be counted on for a key put back or free throw.

Her key free throws down the stretch against RHAM in the Class L quarterfinals helped her team move into the semi-finals.

“It will be tough to replace her toughness,” Fritch said while talking about one of his seniors, “Brittany gave us everything she had ever time she took the floor.”

While she may have been an unsung hero for the Raiders, senior Gena Pietrefase was widely praised for simply being the clue that held the team together and drew special praise from her coach.

“I know coaches are not supposed to have favorites,” Fritch said, “But Gena is my favorite. She knew her role on the team, excepted it and did just what we asked of her.”

Pietrefase will be attending Hillsdale College in Michigan this fall but said she hopes to be able to come back to see her former teammates in action during breaks.

Senior Taylor Christiano, a critical part of the Raiders success down the stretch in the States, took her game to a new level at times, something also not lost on her coach.

“Against RHAM, Taylor played great,” Fritch said, “She really dominated the girls inside and they had no answer for her.”

When she asked for the ball early and often, Christiano was tough to stop, growing more confident with her own ability with every game and against RHAM, she dropped a team high 21 points in the win.

A dominant shot blocker, Christiano worked hard to become a better defender and the results spoke for themselves.

“I am going to miss this group,” Fritch said late this season, “They have been a lot of fun to coach.”

 The four leave the program on as solid a footing as it has ever had and figure the Raiders to be right back in the mix in 2011-2012 with a new group of upperclassmen looking to leave their own mark.

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