PLAINVILLE — All winter, Hand girls’ basketball coach Tim Tredwell preached that his team’s brutal schedule would get the Tigers ready for the state tournament.
He wasn’t kidding.
And Friday night, it paid off big time as Hand (14-12), seeded 19th in the CIAC Class L tournament, upset second-seeded Windsor, 33-27, in the semifinals at Plainville High School.
Every one of Hand’s losses has been to teams that reached at least the quarterfinals in the Class LL or L state tournament and eight of them came at the hands of teams that are still are alive in the LL or L tournaments.
“If I can give credit to Hamden, East Haven, Hillhouse, Wilbur Cross and Mercy. In some, we took our lumps and some we played them tough,” Tredwell said. “Those tough losses got us ready for this moment. You saw it in their faces and their body language tonight. This group has grown up so much in the last four months. They have earned this moment and I am so excited.”
— Dave Phillips (@davephillips41) March 9, 2019
And now, Hand will play for the Class L title for the second time in three years when they meet SCC rival Hillhouse next weekend at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
It will be the third time the two teams have met this season with Hillhouse having won 59-49 on Jan. 16 and 56-50 on Feb. 1. It will also be the second consecutive year two SCC teams will meet in a state final. Last year, East Haven beat Career at the buzzer to win the Class M championship.
“It sounds about right,” Tredwell said. “They (Hillhouse) beat us twice this year. We saw the bracket and figured the only way we could see Hillhouse or East Haven would be at Mohegan, figuring that was four or five games away. Now, here we are and it’s Round 3.”
Friday night’s semifinal wasn’t the prettiest of games as both teams struggled offensively, but that was due to great defense on both sides. Windsor coach Kendrick Moore also felt his team came into the contest very nervous.
“A lot of our kids aren’t used to this position,” Moore said. “Every round adds a little bit of pressure and it got to us tonight. We didn’t do things we normally do tonight.”
— Elliott Polakoff (@ElliottPolakoff) March 9, 2019
Windsor (24-3) had a huge height advantage and it gave Hand a lot of trouble at the beginning of the game as the two teams combined for only nine points in the first quarter with the Tigers taking a 5-4 lead after eight minutes.
In the second quarter, Windsor went ahead, 7-6, on a layup by Tyra Anderson with 6:41 to go until halftime, but it would be the last lead the Warriors had all night.
Taya Akers canned a 3-pointer a minute later as Hand took the lead for good. The Tigers went on a 9-2 run to close out the first half with a 15-9 lead with Maddie Thomas hitting a pair of layups.
A layup by Brooke Salutari a minute and a half into the third quarter gave Hand its largest lead of the night, 18-10, with Windsor only able to close it to 25-18 at the end of the period.
“If you had told me I would have 25 points at the end of the third quarter, I thought we would be down by 40,” Tredwell said. “Windsor is athletic, they are in your face and their defense is off the charts.”
The closest Windsor could get in the fourth quarter was four points, 29-25, with 1:48 to play, but Hand went to four corners on offense in order to take time off the clock and look for some uncontested layups.
“It wasn’t my intention to do it, but when you’re playing Windsor, it’s like there’s nine of them out there,” Tredwell said. “We kept looking for openings and there weren’t a ton of them. As much as I wanted to score, I was just as happy maintaining possession.”
Anna Beccia, Summer Adams and Sara Wohlgemuth (12 points) all hit free throws in the final 1:07 to ice it for Hand.
“It’s hard work and playing very competitive teams during the regular season,” Wohlgemuth said. “It’s all come together now, which is no surprise to us. We knew we had something special, although we are really young.”
Special enough that they are going back to the Sun.