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Wanted: A tournament ride to Mohegan Sun

POSTED March 02, 2015
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

            WANTED: A minimum of one team to take us on the ride of their and our lives. Willing to take a journey into the land of jubilation and euphoria. Price is no object for a lifetime of memories and smiles. Who will step up and provide us with a timeless trip?

            Okay, it’s that special time of the year. We have sat in gyms all around the area since early December, going on three months now and four months for the players. We have watched the good, the bad, the spectacular, the mundane, the nail-biters, the blowouts, the colorful, the colorless.

            We have watched Terryville’s Shea Tracy score points in numbers resembling snowfall amounts, the brilliance of Mustapha Heron and Sacred Heart, the emergence of sophomore Brie Pergola at Torrington, the unquenchable victory thirst of the Thomaston girls, a mighty freshman at Gilbert named Liz Wexler and a gym named after Nick Augelli at Crosby.

            We have seen Mike Fritch win his 400th game as the Torrington High girls coach, Za’Nayia Love score her 1000th point for Crosby, Ryan Sullivan continue to find success as coach of the Kennedy boys after a solid run as the Sacred Heart girls coach and Ansonia remind us that they do more than kick and pass the ball in its fair town by posting a 14-6 record, although Tajik Bagley apparently does it all well.

            We have seen much and we want to see more. And it’s time. It’s really already started with the NVL and BL Tournaments completed and Torrington and Thomaston raising the plaques high and their fans storming the court with justified pride and jubilation.

            The girls state tournament begins today (Monday) while both leagues are down to the boys semifinals in their tournaments. The NVL ready to cap off the Sacred Heart Invitational unless there is an earthquake or the busses break down on the way to the Wilby gym for Monday night’s semifinals.

            The Berkshire League seems to offer a bit more drama, no super power among the contenders. Top-seeded Northwestern Regional hosts Shea Tracy and the gang (that would be Terryville for you hibernators who might have missed an earlier paragraph not to mention most of the season) Tuesday night at 7:30 at Thomaston while Nonnewaug will tangle with Lewis Mills in the opening game.

            Last year we hitched our wagons to Sacred Heart and took a ride wilder the Coney Island Cylone. The Hearts with their brilliant duo of Mustapha Heron and Malik Petteway burned through the Class S field, winning a close game early with East Hampton and holding off Valley Regional in the championship tilt.

            Jon Carroll and his Hearts gave us a fun run that won’t be soon forgotten.  Is there more in store? They are the No. 1 team in the state. Is there ticket punched?

            Then there was the saga of the Thomaston High girls. Wow! Down 11 to Sacred Heart in the Class S semifinals at Kennedy High and then a second half for the ages to emerge a 43-32 winner. It was just a warmup for what happened next.

            No. 1 St. Paul and a classic for the ages. Morgan Sanson ties it with 20 seconds left in regulation and cousin Abby Hurlbert followed by writing herself in the book of basketball legends. You know the story -  down by three points with .2 seconds remaining in the first overtime and fouled near midcourt while taking a desperation three-pointer.

            More than 2,000 fans, Mohegan Sun, state championship and career on the line. Swish, swish, swish. They still talk about it, always will. Thomaston sends it town in a euphoric state with an eventual double overtime triumph.

            So who is stepping up this year. Will it be Sacred Heart?  The Hearts are undefeated and  own a victory over Christ the King and have not been touched this season. The Hearts seem to be a pretty good bet to take us to Mohegan at least as much as anything a sure thing in a sport where nothing is a sure thing.

            Can somebody catch the magic? How about Crosby coach Nick Augelli’s Bulldogs? Will somebody come out of the pack in the Berkshire League?  Can anybody catch the fever?

            How about on the girls’side? I think Holy Cross has the potential to make a strong run in Class M. Coach Frank Lombardo’s Crusaders have the stud in RaShana Siders, Caitlin Cipriano is solid in the middle and there is plenty of support with Casey DiZinno, Century McCartney, Aiyana Ward and the rest.

            Unbeaten Morgan is the beast to beat while Cromwell and defending champion New London are right there but the Crusaders can make a run.

            Newly crowned NVL champion Torrington has already begun its run with its scintillating 56-55 win over Holy Cross in a beauty at Sacred Heart last Wednesday night. The Raiders road will be a difficult one. Early on looms 18-2 Bristol Eastern. 

              And for all in Class L, there is the ominous presence of Capital Prep, the country’s No. 14 team in the USA Today poll. However, if the Raiders saw the Prepsters it would be in the finals and that would be a heck of a run. And Fritch has the quiet kid with the big game, Brie Pergola.

              No, we have not forgotten the Thomaston Bears. How could we? There is less room for error this season without the talents of Abby Hurlbert in a class that seems to have about six teams capable of cutting down the nets.

              The unrelenting drive remains, however for the four-time BL champs, and mark this one down. After a first-round bye and what should be a very winnable second round game there is a probable matchup with a very good Windsor Locks team.

               If the Bears get by that one guess who might be waiting in the semifinals. The St. Paul Falcons. Wouldn’t you pay to see that one more time. Nothing is assured but keep it in the back of your mind. 

              Canton, Bolton and Notre Dame of Fairfield are just a couple other names (watch Notre Dame) in a crowded field. Can the Bears of Morgan Sanson, Gabrielle Hurlbert, Nicole Schaefer, Charlotte Eberhardt and Casey Carangelo make a run to the Sun for the third straight year?

               All I know is this, I have my bags packed and am ready to hitch a ride with any team that decides to make the run. I will pay any amount. I don’t mind being bleary-eyed in the morning. I don’t mind being yelled at by my wife because my desk looks like somebody just dumped a garbage can on it. I just want to be part of the fun.  I will unabashedly hop on the bandwagon if I am not already there.

               So what do the next three weeks hold?. Who will step up? Can somebody find the directions to Mohegan Sun? Is there a dance of champions to be performed out there? A lifetime memory awaits.

                Let’s go for a ride.    

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