WINSTED — Northwestern’s girls basketball team broke a tie for second place in the Berkshire League with Thomaston in a head-to-head 34-23 regular-season finale that offers a preview glimpse of the league tournament starting Saturday at Northwestern High School.
With two losses apiece to league-leading Nonnewaug, the Highlanders (17-3; 13-3 BL) and Golden Bears (13-7; 12-4 BL) play the kind of quick, stifling defense that’s become a Berkshire League girls basketball trademark among the five teams clustered at the top of the eight-team tournament.
It leads to the kind of low-scoring game that had zeros on the board for almost three minutes before Skylar Dimartino (11 points) banked a three-pointer for Northwestern’s first points and Morgan Plitt (game-high 12 points) followed a minute later with the first of her four game 3s.
Almost a minute later, Thomaston center Sydnee Eggleton sank all three of her foul shots after a three-point try, setting Thomaston’s 9-for-11 standard at the foul line.
But the Highlanders established their keys to the win in a first quarter that ended with a 10-5 lead after the first quarter; 19-11 at the half; and 29-21 at the end of three periods.
In a defensive struggle, Northwestern’s defense and rebounding, led by senior Jana Sanden, came out on top and so did key shooters like Plitt, a Highlander freshman.
“They played harder,” Thomaston coach Bob McMahon said. “They outrebounded us and (Sanden) was too rugged for us tonight.”
Sanden was all over the court, with 18 rebounds, 7 points and a steal.
“We knew going into it that it was going to be defensive,” Sanden said. “On senior night for us, we just had extra energy the whole night.”
“Our defense played well tonight. Jana played out of her head,” smiled Northwestern coach Fred Williams in endorsement.
Nevertheless, nobody expected the Bears to go away in the fourth quarter.
Plitt, a year-round player with several AAU teams since sixth grade, sank her third three of the night at the start of the period, but Thomaston’s Emma Kahn (team-high 10 points) sank two foul shots, bringing the Highlander edge back to 29-23.
Kahn, who also had four steals on defense, immediately sank her final trey, pulling Northwestern’s lead back to 32-23. When fellow freshman Natalie Brodnitzki sank a foul shot for a 10-point Highlander lead, this game was essentially over, despite 4:31 left on the clock.
Expect more of the same in the tournament. Nonnewaug (18-2; 14-2 BL) wears the regular-season crown, but its two wins over Northwestern were by a combined total of nine points — 19 combined in the Chiefs’ two wins over Thomaston
The two Nonnewaug losses came from No. 4 seed Shepaug and No. 5 Housatonic, last year’s undefeated league champion.