UNCASVILLE >> No. 3 seed Thomaston fought from behind three times, through regulation and two overtimes, to wrench the Class S girls basketball championship from No. 1 St. Paul, 61-57, at the Mohegan Sun Arena Saturday afternoon.
“For the past four years, this is all I wanted,” beamed Golden Bear senior captain Abby Hurlbert (game-high 23 points, 8 rebounds).
It took back-to-back trips to the finals and last-second heroics by Thomaston’s high scorers in last year’s defeat – Hurlbert and sophomore Morgan Sanson – to get it done.
The taste was all the sweeter for the wait.
“We did what we were supposed to do; they did what they were supposed to do. It was pretty even,” said St. Paul coach Joe Mone.
Both teams pride themselves on hard-nose man-to-man defense. The game figured to be gritty, start-to-finish.
Sanson (13 points, 13 rebounds), who scored 11 against Capital Prep last year as a freshman, got rid of that game’s taste with this game’s first basket. Then Falcon junior Kelly McMahon (11 points, two 3s), St. Paul’s 3-point season record holder, and Mekaela Giantonio (team-high 15 points) rained back-to-back threes for a 6-3 lead.
This year’s freshman sensation, 5-foot-11 Thomaston center Casey Carangelo (21 points, 9 rebounds), wasn’t having it.
Playing against 6-foot-1 Falcon senior Theresa Swanke (4 points), Carangelo found the right spot for a put-back time after time.
“I was nervous, but, when we first got here, I said in my head, ‘We can do this; we have to do this,’” Carangelo said.
Carangelo’s six points in the first helped Thomaston go up 11-9; St. Paul’s Lizzy Cretella (14 points) got it back with a three; Sanson finished the period with two foul shots, 13-12, Thomaston.
Hurlbert (four 3s) got her first points in the second quarter – a foul shot, then back-to-back threes for another Thomaston lead, 23-21, 1:47 left in the half.
Carangelo tied it with a layup, 25-25.
St. Paul busted its best quarter in the third. After an early Carangelo steal and run to the hoop, Giantonio, Swanke, Madeline Sturm (9 points) and Elizabeth Ferraro launched a 12-0 Falcon run that would have begun the end for most other teams.
“Against Sacred Heart (in the semis), we were behind by 11,” said Hurlbert, who scored 28 against Capital Prep last year. “We’ve been coming back the entire season.”
When they do, Hurlbert leads them.
This time, down 10 (42-32), she put up a three and a foul line runner to end the third, 42-37.
“You don’t want to go this far, scrap this much, to lose,” said Falcon coach Joe Mone, looking ahead to this game.
That’s how the fourth quarter was played.
Four early points from Cretella and a hook by Sturm had the St. Paul lead 48-43, 3:04 left.
Hurlbert fed Carangelo for two layups, 48-47. Swanke added a foul shot, 49-47.
Sanson put-back, 49-49, three seconds left – OT.
Falcon foul shots built a 52-49 lead in overtime, five seconds left.
Hurlbert is fouled on a three-point try.
“In practice, when we’re joking around, we shoot foul shots and say ‘make them or go home,’” smiled Hurlbert.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Carangelo scored the first five points – a foul shot and two layup feeds from Sanson with a steal.
Cretella got it to 57-55, foul shot and steal.
Hurlbert, two foul shots, 59-55, 20 seconds left.
Cretella uncontested to the hoop, 59-57.
Sanson, two more foul shots, four seconds left.
Make them or go home…
This time, the Golden Bears stayed, and stayed and stayed.
No. 3 Thomaston 61, No. 1 St. Paul 57 (2OT)
At Mohegan Sun, Uncasville
Thomaston 13 12 12 12 3 9 – 61
St. Paul 12 13 17 7 3 5 – 57
Thomaston (61): Nicole Schaefer 0-0-0; Abby Hurlbert 6-7-23; Gabby Hurlbert 1-0-2; Morgan Sanson 3-7-13; Casey Carangelo 10-1-21; Charlie Eberhardt 0-0-0; Brytnie Thomas 0-2-2; Sarah Guay 0-0-0; Totals: 20-17-61.
St. Paul (57): Mekaela Giantonio 5-2-15; Kelly McMahon 3-3-11; Elisabeth Cretella 5-3-14; Briana Sanchez 0-0-0; Theresa Swanke 1-2-4; Brigid Johndrow 0-0-0; Madeline Sturm 4-1-9; Jillian Kilmer 0-0-0; Elizabeth Ferraro 0-4-4; Totals: 18-15-57.
3-point goals: T-Hurlbert 4. SP-Giantonio 3; McMahon 2; Cretella.
Records: Thomaston 22-4; St. Paul 22-5.