WINSTED – Nonnewaug completed a clean sweep with a 41-37 win over Northwestern for the Berkshire League Girls Basketball Tournament championship Friday night at Northwestern High School after finishing the regular season with the league’s crown.
Battling as the top two tournament seeds just as they had the whole season, the Chiefs (21-2; 17-2 Berkshire League) turned the same kind of late-game charge that worked in both of its regular-season wins over the Highlanders (19-4; 15-4).
The three games were decided by a combined total of 13 points and the Chiefs came from behind in all three.
“It’s depressing, but it’s exciting,” Northwestern coach Fred Williams said. “In this one, we were up by eight with 10 minutes to go and couldn’t put the nail in the coffin.”
“It was a team effort and everybody made big plays,” Nonnewaug coach Adam Brutting said.
In a bruising defensive contest with lots of turnovers on both sides (23 for Northwestern; 17 for Nonnewaug), the Highlanders ran out to a 7-0 lead before Nonnewaug scored its first points three-and-a-half minutes into the game.
Northwestern had six steals in that span, three of them by center Natalie Lederman. But the close defense came at a cost, with Lederman picking up a second foul a minute later while Nonnewaug’s Sam Conti found the range for a three-pointer to bring the Chiefs back to 14-9 by the end of the quarter.
After an arid second quarter with five team points apiece, featuring second 3’s by Nonnewaug freshman Conti and Northwestern freshman Natalie Brodnitzki, the Chiefs had learned some lessons.
Coming out of the half-time locker room trailing 19-14, “We wanted to take care of the ball and slow it down a bit,” said Nonnewaug senior Maddie Woodward.
“We just wanted to stop heading into things that weren’t there,” said Brutting.
Woodward (10 points) took the advice to heart, scoring six of the Chiefs’ points in a 10-2 run to a 24-21 lead in the first three minutes of the second half.
Still, Northwestern had been a formidable foe all season. This time, the Highlanders answered with three treys in a row, the first by Skyaare Dimartino (10 points), then two more from Morgan Plitt, bouncing back to a 30-24 lead.
By the end of the period, Northwestern had its eight-point lead behind two straight baskets from Brodnitzki.
Nonnewaug’s defense tightened and all-star guard Ashley Hennessey (game-high 19 points) was ready for her biggest quarter.
She joined fellow all-star Woodward in drives to the hoop, narrowing the lead to four, then three with a Hennessey foul shot.
Nine more Hennessey points in a row put the Chiefs in charge, 38-34, with 1:11 left in the game.
“We just threw it away,” said Coach Williams.
But Hennessey also kept throwing it in the hoop for three final foul shots, completing her 13-point quarter and the championship’s final touch.