By Rick Wilson
THOMASTON – A lot of spit and grit, a big-time lockdown and a touch of revenge. Oh and a spot in the Class S semifinals. You might say Tuesday night was a mighty good night for the Thomaston High girls basketball team.
The top-ranked Golden Bears overcame a sluggish start with a get down and suffocate defensive effort in the second half to eliminate Berkshire League rival and eighth seed Gilbert, 43-25. The victory sets up a match up against No. 5 Bolton, a 44-29 winner over Sommers, Monday night at a site to be announced. A trip to Mohegan Sun awaits the winner.
The win was Thomaston’s third in four games against Gilbert this season but just two weeks ago, it was the Yellowjackets (17-9) celebrating at midcourt after breaking Thomaston’s two-year, 31-game BL win streak on the same court in the Berkshire League Tournament semifinals. The moment was not lost or forgotten by the Bears, fueling the effort.
“We wanted some revenge, we kept repeating the score, ‘’ said the Bears’ Emma Sanson.
The Bears (20-4) got off to a shaky start, falling behind, 14-8, in the first quarter after a 4-for-19 shooting effort. With thoughts of the previous meeting looming a spark was needed and Sanson provided the fire,
The senior forward put some teeth in the Bears trapping defense with several steals and scored 11 of her game-high 19 points in the second quarter as the Bears went on a 15-2 run to erase the deficit and take a 23-16 edge at one point, At the half it was, 23-20.
Sanson, who also grabbed 12 rebounds, struggled in the Bears’ second round win over Coginchaug. This was a different night and a different player.
“(Against Coginchaug) I was overthinking“ said Sanson. “This game I was calmer I knew I was going to make my layups and that the team had my back,”
Clearly Sanson’s play turned the momentum.
“It was our defense that turned it around,” said Thomaston guard Nicole Decker. “We knew we had to bring more intensity. We got fast breaks off of our steals and our transition game really improved,”
At halftime the Bears used the future for a lift, – “We said we can’t let up, This is not the BL, this is for Mohegan Sun,” said Sanson.
The Bears were grinding domination in the second half. Gilbert managed just five points and two baskets, going 11 minutes between the baskets, scoring with six minutes to go in the third quarter then not again until there was 2:51 left in the game.
Explosive freshman Emily Arel found breathing room replaced by a bevy of white and brown jerseys wherever she traveled and no others answers to be found, Arel finished with a season low six points all in the first quarter,
“(Gilbert) has a dynamic player and a couple of pieces, we disrupted that in the third quarter,” said Thomaston coach Bob McMahon. “It is not to be underestimated the job Nicole (Decker), Kiera (Fainer) and Aurelia (Barker) did on No. 5 (Arel).
With the Gilbert offense on life support the Bears slowly put some distance between the two teams. Leading, 27-23, a Fainer offensive rebound basket followed by a Sanson three-point play and foul shot upped the lead to, 33-23, by the end of the third period.
Using long, drawn out offensive sets to great effectiveness in the fourth quarter, the Bears found their way to the foul line and added another six points for a 39-23 lead to seal the contest, Led by Ava Harkness (14 points, 12 rebounds) the Bears dominated the offensive boards for repeated possessions,
“We just got worn down,” said Gilbert coach Gerry Hicks. “We got in foul trouble in the fourth quarter and just couldn’t find the basket. Thomaston is a really good team and they rebound so well.”