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These are `tough' Bears

POSTED March 10, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                                    These are `tough' Bears

            NEW BRITAIN – They are just plain tough kids and Saturday afternoon at New Britain High School nobody was tougher.

            Here’s the thing about the Thomaston High girls basketball team. They will get in your grill, they will drape themselves on your back, they will pester, prod and harass you right into maddening frustration. Almost all of the time they will beat you.

            So it was against East Windsor in the Class S semifinals. This one was about cutting off the offensive air flow and by the end of the game, there weren’t enough oxygen tanks in all of New Britain for the Panthers.

            The Bears aren’t smooth and rarely pretty. Coach Bob McMahon over the years has often referred to ``grinding it out.” Smooth is not exactly the operative word. There is heavy blue collar persona here.  Get down, get dirty and get it done.

            East Windsor turned the ball over three of the first four times it was in the half court. Point guard Melissa Wabble was hounded into rushed passes and forced to try to find an open teammate as the Bears were up close and personal and swarming.

            McMahon will tell you when his team doesn’t play up to standard and will stand up tell you when all is good. This was good. He called the Bears’ defensive effort `a clinic’  and admitted he was surprised when the Panthers got an open look at the hoop.”

            The defensive effort also spread to the backboards. In somewhat curious fashion, the Bears have played a couple of halves in recent games where they have been obliterated off of the boards. Most recently, Hyde nearly stole a victory in the quarterfinals, outrebounding the Bears, 19-3 in the fourth quarter.

            In the Berkshire League championship game in an almost surreal situation, Lewis Mills posted a 32-5 rebounding edge. McMahon wasn’t pleased and the Bears got the message here. A 27-18 rebounding edge and very few second chances for the Panthers.  

            Then there is Eberhardt. The story here was the Bears defense at one end and the All-Stater at the other end. Eberhardt doesn’t wow you with her size. At 5-foot-3 and slight of build if you don’t follow Thomaston she is not the person you pick out of the lineup to stick the dagger in you once the game starts.

            But, you know, looks are deceiving. She is a winner and has the tools to put a dark cloud over your basketball day if you are on the other side. She went over the 1,000 point mark this season and showed up in every big game the team played this season. Lewis Mills, Nonnewaug, Coginchaug, it has been an endless list of big-time performances.

            When she had an off-night against Hyde McMahon said, “maybe she finally showed she’s human.” He retracted that sentiment after her 24-point effort against East Windsor.

            The line drive with the side rotation was back to finding the bottom of the net. To be surprised is to not know Eberhardt. A three-pointer to start the game.  Four three-pointers in all. Fourteen first half points as the Bears broke open a 28-15 lead.

            Her total was more than half of the team’s total more than enough on a day where the defense was suffocating. An energetic East Windsor student section tried to upset Eberhardt with the chant of “ball hog.”

            Eberhardt didn’t flinch and by game’s end the Panthers were wishing they had a ‘ball hog” of her abilities.

            McMahon called her “10-feet tall, superman.” Don’t poke the Bear, and there is no bigger Bear than Eberhardt. East Windsor coach Robert Lengyei talked about her will. She’s got game with an edge to it.

            If Thomaston was nervous Saturday it didn’t show it. They sure as heck weren’t in any way tentative against a good opponent. Abby Hurlbert contributed her eight points and nine rebounds. Morgan Sanson continues to crash around to grab rebounds and Sydney Keith is just playing the best ball of her career.

            It was a tough performance from a tough team. Capital Prep, the No. 1 team in the state has decimated Class S. They have wrecked the division winning three games by an average of 65 points. And to be honest taken a lot of drama out of the run to the championship.

            The Trailblazers are clearly the most talented team in Class S and may simply overwhelm the Bears in the championship game. But Thomaston won‘t take a step back. There will be no deer in the headlights look.

             These are tough kids. Nobody was tougher Saturday.  

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