WATERBURY >> For the second season in a row the Thomaston Golden Bears are headed to the Class S championship game after defeating Sacred Heart, 43-32.
The Golden Bears met Capital Prep last season in the finals and lost.
“We got our butts whooped last year,” Thomaston head coach Bob McMahon said. “We’re just happy to be back with another chance.”
Getting back to the finals wasn’t an easy task for the Golden Bears who trailed 21-12 after the first half, and did not look good.
“Nothing was going right,” Thomaston sophomore Morgan Sanson said.
“I don’t think they played that much better than we did, they just shot better,” McMahon said. “I still thought it was anyone’s game for the taking.”
Thomaston came out with 16 minutes standing between them and a title game berth.
“We knew we had to leave it all on the court,” Sanson said.
They did that, opening up the second half on a 10-2 run, cutting their deficit to one point 23-22 with 4:12 left, after a Sanson layup.
After both teams traded a couple of baskets, the Hearts led 27-26 with 30 seconds left to go in the third.
Sanson grabbed a rebound, broke up court, with senior Abby Hurlbert cutting in from the other side.
Sanson split the Heart defenders with a bounce pass right to Hurlbert, who backed them down and banked her shot off the glass, giving Thomaston the lead for the first time since the 4:40 mark of the first quarter.
“I expected us to play Thomaston basketball one possession at a time,” said McMahon of his team’s second half plan.
To be able to come back and take a one-point lead into the fourth quarter?
“It just happened faster than we thought,” he said.
Thomaston outscored the Hearts 16-6 in the third.
In the fourth quarter the Golden Bears continued its dominance.
Hurlbert and the Hearts’ Maya Eggleston exchanged one free-throw a piece at the beginning of the quarter.
Sanson then drove to the lane scored and was fouled, hitting the free-throw, giving Thomaston a 32-28 lead with 5:43 left.
Thomaston sophomore Nicole Schaefer hit a 3-pointer and then freshman Casey Carangelo, who struggled early, scored six straight points for the Golden Bears, all under the basket.
“In the first half I couldn’t make a shot,” said Carangelo, who scored eight points in the win. “I was a little nervous, but I knew I can make those.”
After Carangelo put the game out of reach, 41-32, all that was left was the clock to hit zero.
“Everyone contributed tonight,” said Hurlbert who led all scorers with 15 points.
“Everyone made the little plays and when you add them up, that’s what wins games,” McMahon said. “That’s not the first time we’ve had to bear down, we were fine with playing from behind.”
Thomaston who started the year slow, losing three of its first eight games, hasn’t lost since Jan. 14 when they lost to Lewis Mills 45-44, find themselves one win away from a State Championship.
“This team has made such progress,” McMahon said. “This is one of the proudest moments in our programs history.”
The Golden Bears will play the winner of the No. 1 St. Paul and No. 4 Bolton who play Tuesday night.
“It’s really exciting for the fans, the parents, the coaches and most importantly for the kids,” McMahon said.
Thomaston 43 Sacred Heart 32
Thomaston 4 8 16 15 – 43
Sacred Heart 10 11 6 5 – 32
Thomaston (43): Nicole Schaefer 2-2-7; Abby Hurlbert 4-4-15; Gabby Hurlbert 0-0-0; Morgan Sanson 5-2-12; Charlie Eberhardt 1-0-2; Bryttnie Thomas 0-0-0; Sarah Guay 0-1-1; Casey Carangelo 4-0-8. Totals: 15-9-43.
Sacred Heart (32): Maryn Vaillancourt 1-0-2; Nicole Glaude 0-0-0; Nicole Jolly 0-0-0; Mikayla Jacobs 3-2-9; Amber Craig 1-0-3; Mahnue Sahn 3-1-7; Maya Eggleston 2-7-11. Totals: 10-10-32.
3 – point goals: T – A. Hurlbert 3; Schaefer; SH – Jacobs; Craig.
Records: Thomaston 21-4 Sacred Heart 18-6.