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Torrington girls one game from promise land.

POSTED March 10, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Taylor Christiano gets congrats from head coach Mike Fritch after helping her team beat RHAM by a 69-56 score. Christiano led all scorers with 21 points. Torrington will play again on Friday against E.O. Smith with a trip to the finals on the line.

TORRINGTON-When the Torrington girls first began practice back in December of 2010, this was the spot they wanted to see themselves in.

One game away from playing for a state title.

Now, it has taken three plus months, 20 regular season games, three Naugatuck Valley League Tournament contests and two Class L state games to get here so what’s two more?

Two more wins is all that stands between the Raiders (23-2) bringing home the gold, a State Championship.

It would be the first in girls basketball history at THS but to get there, they will have to beat two of the best teams in Class L over the next eight days.

First up is E.O.Smith, who are the No. 2 ranked team in L, Torrington is ranked third.

The Panthers come in with a 21-2 record and play in the Central Connecticut East Division with the team the Raiders beat, RHAM, to advance to the semi’s.

E.O Smith beat the Sachems in both their regular season games and are led by senior Maggie Sundberg, seems to do it all for the Panthers.

Sundberg leads her team in scoring, assists and steals while helping her team go a perfect 14-0 in the CCCE.

Waiting on the other side of the Class bracket are No. 1 Bacon Academy and No. 4 Hillhouse, the team nobody seems to want to play.

No real upsets in Class L this season, the top four have made it through, setting up two terrific basketball games tonight.

What do the Raiders need to do to stop the Panthers?

More of what has worked for them the entire season and it all starts with the defense.

Torrington and head coach Mike Fritch have long relied on their “D” to create their “O” and this year has been no exception.

The pressure starts in the backcourt where seniors Sarah Royals and Taylor Christiano are joined by juniors Aly Otis and Mariah Cerruto in creating a firestorm of pressure that has startled many a team this year and led to easy baskets.

That’s not to say the Raiders can’t play in a half-court zone or man-to-man, depends upon the team.

Against a fast and athletic RHAM team in the quarterfinals, the Sachems were able to break the press so Torrington switched back to a zone and was effective.

On offense, Royals, who will leave Torrington as the all time leading scorer in girls basketball history, is best when she is more a creator than scorer.

Don’t get me wrong, the Raiders will need her 20-plus points to win but when Royals see’s the court and gets her teammates involved, especially Christiano down low, good things tend to happen.

Otis has gotten stronger each and every time out on the floor this season and Cerruto has established herself as a premier point guard this season.

Her ability to handle the constant pressure she faces each night has improved as she has grown more comfortable in the role.

This has been a Raiders team that flew through regular season without much fanfare except for the two regular season meetings with Holy Cross, the only team to hang a loss on the Raiders in the regular season.

The Crusaders dominated Torrington in the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament finals but the Raiders have bounced back nicely since then with two strong performances so far in the States.

One game for a trip to Uncasville.

32 minutes from the dream.

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