GLASTONBURY >> After a year away, the E.O. Smith girls basketball team is back in the Central Connecticut Conference championship game.
It took two overtime periods to decide, but when the final buzzer sounded at Glastonbury High School on Monday in the first CCC semifinal, it was the second-seeded Panthers defeating third-seeded Southington, 66-62.
“It was crazy, that’s how I would describe it,” E.O. Smith junior McKenna Dale said. “Southington is a great team, they have amazing players. We were just trying to hold on. We were trying to pull through and it was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever played and toughest games I’ve ever played in, but it was just awesome at the end.”
E.O. Smith — which will play No. 1-seeded South Windsor, a winner over RHAM in the other semifinal — is making its third CCC tournament finals appearance. The Panthers have never won a tournament title, losing to Weaver in 2014 and Northwest Catholic in 2010. The championship is Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Glastonbury.
“What a high school game,” E.O. Smith coach Mary Roickle said. “I think it speaks to the parity of our conference. The CCC has some great teams and I think you saw two here.”
Junior McKenna Dale led E.O. Smith with 33 points and Isa Peczuk had 19, with 13 coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“Isa is probably the best teammate I could ask for,” Dale said. “She always seems — in the end of tough games — to make a 3 or do a drive that puts us ahead, it seems to happen countless times.”
Janette Wadolowski scored 31 for the Blue Knights while Maggie Meehan had 13. Natalie Wadolowski fouled out with 2:31 left in the first overtime, a considerable loss for Southington down the stretch.
“You got your senior captain, four year starter, the heart and soul of your inside defense for four years and I thought she went straight up,” Southington coach Mike Forgione said. “They say she got some of the body or something, so that really hurt us, obviously. She’s a three-time all-conference player, one of our best players, and not having her in there really hurt in the overtime.”
Meehan made a 3-pointer from the corner with seven second left in regulation to force OT and then had a 3 rim-out as time expired four minutes later to send it to double overtime.
“Maggie hit a big shot for us to keep us in the game there,” Forgione said. “Give her credit, she never quit even when she missed some shots, she came back firing.”
Abby Vampatella hit a 3 to open up the second 4-minute period and Dale followed with one of her own to open up a 61-55 lead. Janette Wadolowski answered with a layup and then Peczuk went to the free throw line and made one of two.
After another Wadolowski jumper, Hartlee Meier hit a corner 3 to tie it at 62 with one minute left.
Peczuk scored to give the Panthers the lead for good with 42 second remaining.
“I think it was the remembrance from last year,” Dale said. “Last year we got out in the first round, the year before we lost in the championship. I think we used that motivation from the past two years to really compel us to want it more.”
E.O. Smith 66, Southington 62
Southington: 15 11 5 15 9 7 — 62
E.O. Smith: 14 13 8 11 9 11 — 66
(at Glastonbury High School)
Sarah Minkiewicz 2 1-2 5, Maggie Meehan 4 2-5 13, Natalie Wadolowski 2 0-0 4, Kayla Kavanaugh 0 0-0 0, Hartlee Meier 2 1-2 7, Diana Verderame 0 2-2 2, Janette Wadolowski 12 6-9 31 — Total 22 10-20 62.
E.O. Smith (66)
Lindsey Perugini 1 0-0 2, Cierra Brescia 3 1-2 7, Isa Peczuk 6 4-7 19, Keeley O’Keefe 0 1-2 1, Kaleigh Dale 0 0-0 0, Brooke Vonasek 0 0-0 0, Renee Suchy 0 0-0 0, McKenna Dale 9 12-13 33, Abby Vampatella 1 1-1 4 — Total 21 19-25 66.
3-pointers: S — Meehan (2), Meier (2); E — Peczuk (3), Dale (3), Vampatella.
Fouled out: S — N. Wadolowski.
Records: Southington 19-4; E.O. Smith 21-2.
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