It could be a historic weekend at the Mohegan Sun Arena, site of the CIAC girls basketball state championships.
Canton (Class S), Notre Dame-Fairfield (Class M) and FCIAC rivals Stamford and Greenwich, which square off in Class LL, are each in search of a first CIAC state title.
Another team, Capital Prep (Class L), can become the first girls team since Southington from 1986-1989 to win four titles in a row. The Trailblazers have won two straight titles in Class L in addition to a Class S crown in 2013. Capital Prep has not lost to an in-state opponent since losing to Coginchaug in the Class S final in 2012.
“It would be an understatement to say that wouldn’t be important,” Capital Prep coach Tammy Millsaps said. “Who does not want to make history? The opportunity to win four state championships … there haven’t been many people who could even say they went to one.
“But the opportunity to win your fourth, we want to be a part of history. At Capital Prep, we are a school of social justice, a fairly new school in the CIAC — a new school overall. To be a part of history, to be so young, is special.”
Capital Prep (23-3), the No. 1 team in the GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 Poll entering the state tournament, is led by Syracuse-bound senior Desiree Elmore.
The fifth-seeded Trailblazers will face No. 2 New London in the championship game on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
The Whalers (25-1) can match Capital Prep’s athleticism, and feature a strong inside-out game that includes senior Charee Osborne (5-foot-10), junior India Pagan (6-2) and junior Jada Lucas.
Osborne and Pagan were both starters when the Whalers won the Class M title in 2014. New London will attempt to win its second title overall.
“They present some challenges,” Millsaps said. “They have some really dominant post players who did a good job of rebounding and finishing around the basket. We know they have some kids on the floor that can do some special things.”
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Last month, fourth-seeded Stamford won its first FCIAC title since 1979. Now, the Black Knights take aim at their first CIAC state title.
Stamford (24-2) will face No. 10 Greenwich (19-4) for the Class LL championship on Sunday at 3 p.m. It marks the first time since 1998 that two teams playing each other for the title are also both making their first appearance in a state final.
“The girls have worked very hard all season to get here,” Stamford coach Diane Burns said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Stamford senior Tiana England is in the midst of a remarkable postseason. England, who will attend St. John’s, scored 41 points in a quarterfinal victory over Norwich Free Academy. Greenwich counters with 6-4 senior Abby Wolf.
Greenwich defeated the Black Knights 64-55 in the regular season on Feb. 3 in their only meeting this year. That loss snapped Stamford’s 11-game winning streak. Since, the Black Knights have won 11 in a row.
“Our mentality is that we achieved one of our goals and definitely the next one is to get the state championship,” England said. “Knowing that it’s my last year, as well as three other seniors, this is really important to us.”
Notre Dame-Fairfield senior Taylor Ceballos hopes to lead the Lancers to the program’s first title. Notre Dame has lost all five times it previously played for a state championship. The last time the Lancers reach the final they lost to Cromwell in the Class M final in 2013.
Notre Dame’s opponent this year? Yup, Cromwell. The Class M championship game will be contested on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
For Ceballos, it’s been quite the journey reaching a state championship game. The 6-foot Ceballos played at Foran her freshman year but then missed her sophomore season due to injury. She then transferred to St. Joseph as a junior but left before Thanksgiving. It was then that she enrolled at Notre Dame-Fairfield.
“It’s amazing,” Ceballos said about reaching a state final. “Its always been a dream just to play at Mohegan. I think that’s every high schooler’s dream, just the ability to get there and play there and have an amazing team to get you there.”
The Lancers started the season just 2-3 but then won nine in a row. Later in the year, Notre Dame knocked off previously unbeaten New Fairfield to win the SWC tournament title.
“I think together, as a team, we found our defensive identity,” Ceballos said. “We kind of got lost with it when we went on our losing streak. It kind of brought us down and made us realize ‘ok, we have to play’. When we figured that out and found the right pattern and pieces, it worked for us. I think we just bonded more as a team. We’re more together, more unity. It’s great.”
Thomaston, the No. 1 seed in Class S, can claim its third straight title with a victory over No. 3 Canton. This is a rematch of last season’s Class S final won by Thomaston 52-50. It’s the first time since 1999-2000 that there’s a rematch in a state final.
The Bears are playing in their fourth straight final. Canton is 0-3 overall in state championship games. The Class S championship game will be played on Saturday at 10 a.m.
“The same (challenge) one that they presented last year, and the same one we present for them,” Thomaston coach Bob McMahon said. “We’re going to have two groups of small-town kids that want to win a state championship. I don’t think last year’s game factors into it whatsoever.”