On any given Morgan game day, or practice for that matter, Huskies coach Joe Grippo can be heard barking directions, encouragement and some creative constructive criticism at his players.
His team has responded, actually adopted his aggressive style and can win a Class M title Sunday at 12:30 as No. 6 Morgan faces No. 5 New London at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“We’re with him all the time,” said Morgan point guard Sami Ashton, who also plays volleyball for Grippo. “His personality has flowed into all of us. We want to win just like he does.”
And Grippo said he has noticed that his team is starting to act a little more like him day after day.
“They’re fun to go to war with every day I know I’m going to get a great effort,” he said. “They may do some stupid things on the basketball court, but we’re definitely going to give it all we have.”
The Huskies have left it all on the floor each game this season. Early this season, Morgan ended Cromwell’s 29-game winning streak. The Huskies won 13 straight games in the middle of the regular season and advanced to the Shoreline Conference title game.
However, an overtime loss to rival Cromwell in the final was the spark the Huskies needed to keep them motivated in states. And, looking on the bright side, just getting to the SLC title game does have its advantages. Cromwell and Coginchaug, both SLC teams, won state titles in each of the last two seasons.
“I’m pretty sure two out of the last three years, the loser of the Shoreline has won states,” Ashton said. “I hope we do the same.”
In order for Morgan to be the top dog of Class M, it has to sink a streaking New London team. The Whalers won 10 out of its last 11 to close out the regular season and advanced all the way to the Eastern Connecticut Conference title game before falling to Norwich Free Academy by eight points.
“I’m very impressed with them,” Grippo said. “They’re bigger than us and more physical than us.”
New London may be bigger, boasting three girls at 6-feet or taller, but Morgan’s calling card is its toughness. Also, players like Ashton, Jen Dawson and Lily Dawson were on the Huskies volleyball team that won a state title this past fall. They hope they can keep the momentum going in basketball.
And for Jen, who’s sister Lily is a senior, winning another state crown this school year would get them one step closer to what they’re trying to accomplish.
“It’s my sister’s senior year, I want to win,” she said. “We also play softball, I want to win all three with her.”
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