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Thomaston ready for return trip to Class S finals

POSTED March 21, 2014
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn

The Thomaston girls basketball team. The Golden Bears will be returning to Mohegan Sun this week for a match up with NVL rival St. Paul for the Class S crown.

PLANTSVILLE - There are a number of interesting story lines surrounding this weekend's CIAC Basketball State Tournament finals and for the second consecutive season the Thomaston girls basketball team is a part of that story.

The Bears are once again in the Class S title game and their "Run to the Sun" will conclude Saturday afternoon when they meet top-seeded St. Paul at 3 p.m. at Mohegan Sun.

"We are really excited and grateful," Thomaston coach Bob McMahon said. "We have been through a lot this season to get here and not everyone gets a chance to be here and for us to have another chance to bring it home this year is special."

Thomaston has won 14 straight games to get to this point and will enter Saturday's title game with a record of 21-4. The Bears won a share of the Berkshire League title along with Lewis Mills and Nonnewaug and beat Mills for the BL Tournament title, but it is a loss that the team credits as a turning point.

Not many Bears were thinking BL title on January 14 when they lost 45-44 to Mills and slipped to 7-4 on the season. But instead of packing it in, Thomaston turned things around.

"We never could figure things out and get things to go the way we wanted them to go early on," McMahon said. "We kind of hit rock bottom at one point and nobody could agree on anything. After that last loss we just regrouped and this is a result of that."

The result is a second trip to Mohegan and a shot at a state title. A number of Bears enter Saturday's contest with title game experience but McMahon didn't put too much stock in that being much of a factor. 

"I think the nature of high school sports, things change and a lot of the faces may be the same but you have to do it a totally different way," McMahon said. "It's a different situation."

St. Paul coach Joe Mone thinks his team will be ready but does see the setting and the stakes as a possible factor. The Falcons won the title in 2010 but there are no holdovers from that title team.

"It can be an advantage having been there before and some of it will be how we handle the atmosphere and the pressure," Mone said. "But I don't think our kids get caught up in that."

There will likely be a few early jitters, but once the game settles in it is expected to be a close one. The teams have played two common opponents, Immaculate of Danbury and Sacred Heart and both are 2-0.

"I think it's an evenly matched game and In am looking forward to it," Mone said. "I think when the bracket came out that these were the two best teams and it's not a surprise to see them back in the finals."

There are three teams returning to Mohegan Sun from last season's finalists, Thomaston along with Capital Prep and Lauralton Hall. Prep beat Thomaston for the S title while Lauralton lost a heartbreaker to Mercy in the LL final.

The returning teams are a part of a number of interesting story lines surrounding the finals including a quest for a perfect season, a family fued of sorts, and the fact that seven different conferences are represented in the finals.

Capital Prep has been the No. 1 team in the state all season and is looking to finish the season 27-0 and win a second straight state title. Lauralton Hall lost last season's LL title game, 54-53, to Mercy on a buzzer-beater and is in search of its first state title. Hall beat Mercy 52-43 in the semifinals.

The family fued involves Thomaston coach Bob McMahon and St. Paul's junior guard Kelly McMahon, who is his niece.

"It's a great story and will be a great day for our family but we are trying to look at it as two teams, Thomaston and St. Paul and that's where the focus should be."

Kelly had a similar take but she did notice there was the potential for a showdown in the finals.

"It will be a great event for our family but I agree that the focus should be on basketball," she said. "When I looked at the bracket, I thought, wow, we could play Thomaston in the finals but I didn't care who it was, I just wanted to be in the finals."

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