Print this story

You voted. The top story of 2014. The Thomaston Golden Bears dual titles in basketball and softball wins! #1-Bears feeling that eternal glow.

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

It’s been a touch more than 72 hours and still you struggle to get you mind around it, to grasp it all and take it in.  The raw jubilation has dissipated from an emotionally-drained town but only because it had to. Yet, only to be replaced by Stage II.

A thick cloud of pride and amazement still mixed with a bit of disbelief has settled over Thomaston after Saturday’s epic 61-57 double overtime victory over St. Paul’s at Mohegan Sun for the Class S state title. And it isn’t going away soon or ever.

A state title in its own right would have created a warm glow but the destination here has been magnified off of the chart by the journey. What can you say? It’s all been said and if hasn’t it is because nobody can find the words here.

Thomaston was done. The Bears were done in the third quarter when St. Paul went up, 32-22, and the Falcon’s press was eating up the dream. The Bears were done at the end of regulation when they trailed by a basket with less than 20 seconds left.

The Bears were more than done in the first overtime. They were stick-a-fork in me done when St. Paul’s was up 52-49 with five seconds left and a foul shot to finally put coach Bob McMahon’s team away. I mean it was cha-cha time for St. Paul’s

They needed a miracle, some magic, even the glass half-full guy had left the building.

They had it all in No. 5, the kid with the blonde ponytail who took the step that few can ever do. She went from special to legend. You don’t teach what Abby Hurlbert did. It is something from deep inside, the ingredient that separates.

To echo a familiar refrain over the last couple of days, what Hurlbert did is the greatest display of sheer guts and big-time guile I have ever seen. I have covered a lot of state championship games. I have seen shots sunk to win state championships. I have seen the great MVP performances.

I have never seen anything like this. Lest there be a voice out there that wonders if we go over the top here, think about this. Hurlbert had to get the ball, dribble down the court and get a shot off.  She did.

But then it became the stuff of legends. She got fouled. Three shots to tie the game with 0.2 seconds remaining a career, a state title all on the line. And she was all by herself, so alone. Nobody with her at the foul line. Staring right into the hundreds of Thomaston students behind the basket, thousands of fans trying to gulp it all in, time stood still and she needed them all.

Three times she had to be perfect. Not once, not twice but a trifecta. How many times have seen college and pro players find it all too much. Yet, Hurlbert drained the first one, then caught rim but put in No. 2. Then St. Paul coach Joe Mone ices here. It just didn’t matter. Back on the court she stamped her name into the ice-water Hall of Fame and forever into the hearts of her town.

Hurlbert didn’t flinch after, why should she. She didn’t flinch when it counted. She talked about a “wild desire to win.”  She scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The Bears followed the lead and controlled the second overtime.

It was certainly more than Hurlbert. Casey Cargangelo’s 21 points and 9 rebounds was a flat out stunning performance for a 6-foot-freshman playing in contest that would make most cringe. Morgan Sanson, ever the warrior, had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

How do you move on from it all? Senior Morgan Graham said Monday that you don’t and part of you doesn’t. You do because you have have to. But in the mind Saturday afternoon at Mohegan Sun will be front and center for a while.

The seasons changed Monday. Bears coach Bob McMahon, officially changed hats putting on his Thomaston High baseball coaching hat. He had done practices for both teams last week now it was time for the small ball. He was making out a weekly schedule for his players.

 He spent time in the THS gym Monday night. But, you know he kept seeing Mohegan Sun. You know he saw Hurlberts and Sanson, Nikki Schafer and thousands of fans singing “We are the Champions.”

You know he saw No. 5 at the foul line, over and over and over again. He will always see No. 5 at the foul line.

Abby Hurlbert played in the Connecticut High School All-Star game Monday night. Tuesday it was softball practice with her sister Gabrielle and cousin Sanson. She is the Bears top pitcher a major force in helping the team to a BL title tie and Class S semifinal spot a year ago.

I asked her how do you get over this weekend. She smiled and needed to say no more. You don’t. She was still at Mohegan, part of her will always be at Mohegan. All of her will always be with Thomaston.

The tweets keep piling up, the photos keep coming, the accolades keep pouring in. The video tributes are numerous. The banquet will be planned.

It has been called by so many the greatest game they have seen. It has touched many. Portland coach Nick Chaconis who beat Thomaston three straight years (2010-12) in the quarterfinals e-mailed – “I’m happy for Thomaston, you guys have a great tradition. Give my sincere congratulations to all.”

McMahon recently congratulatory texts from his BL brethren – Fred Williams of Northwestern, Adam Brutting of Nonnewaug and Joe Capitani of Lewis Mills.  More than anybody Capitaini knows the Bears. He beat them twice this season and a shared a title with them. But he knows there is special in the Bears’ uniform.

The state knows. Thomaston ended up 10th in the final girls basketball poll, a major achievement for a Class S school.  And maybe when you think about the whole story you need to remember that Thomaston has 132 girls. It is public. As McMahon says, ‘All my girls live within four miles of the school.”

It is all so small-town big. The weather will get warmer someday.  Softballs have already replaced the basketball. The diamond takes over from the court. Some of the team is on the field, others are on the track. Some are just relaxing. You move on but you don’t move on.

Mar. 22, 2014 Mohegan Sun. Abby Hurlbert on the foul line. Thomaston on top of the world. A teary-eyed 85-year old Gene McMahon so proud of his son, hurting for his granddaughter, Kelly. “We Are the Champions.” Double overtime.

How do you move on? Part of you doesn’t. Let it have its way with you. It is that special.

For more from Rick Wilson click here