The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

NW Catholic too much for Thomaston in quarters

- By Peter Wallace

THOMASTON — No. 2 Thomaston hung with No. 10 Northwest Catholic for the first one-and-a-half quarters before a Lion tidal wave of size, speed and shooting overcame the Golden Bears 67-34 in a Class S girls basketball quarterfin­al at Thomaston High School Wednesday night.

Northwest Catholic's Abby Casper, a 5-foot-11 freshman forward was the main force with a game-high 28 points.

Thomaston's 5-foot-10 center Ava Harkness (team-high 17 points) was the key to much of the Golden Bears' early resistance.

By the half, Casper had 14 points, Harkness 13, but signs were already in that, on Wednesday, each team's supporting cast would make almost as much difference in the game as their stars.

Casper (three treys) began the scoring with a three from the corner, but Kylie Decker answered immediatel­y for Thomaston.

Casper and Lily Pare (10 points) scored six points for the Lions. Harkness came back with five for the Bears to pull within 9-8.

Pare (two treys) drained a three; Zoey Canning threatened to start pulling the game away for Northwest on a fast break.

Thomaston's Nicole Decker (9 points) wouldn't let it happen. An eightfoot jumper and a feed to Harkness made it 16-14 Lions.

Casper added another three points. Thomaston's Kiera Fainer ended the quarter with a three from the corner, 19-17.

If this could keep up, the game would be a battle to the end.

It could not.

Some of the reasons were already in through a close first quarter. Thomaston's Harkness, slim and athletic, was brilliant, flashing to the basket on speed and great moves, but she was up against more than the solid Casper underneath.

Rebecca Lobo's daughter, Maeve Rushin, a 6foot-1 center, also starts for the Lions underneath. Rushin scored all of her eight points in the second half, including a pair of threes, but defense was

her main contributi­on — and Thomaston’s nemesis — for much of the game.

The smaller Bears did a great job of rebounding in the first half, but inside play except for Harkness was often a stone wall for Thomaston.

Meanwhile, the Bears used up buckets of energy in staying close. Used to being the fastest team on the floor and the stiffest defense as Berkshire League regular season co-champions and league tournament champions, Thomaston, the defending Class S champion, met its match in the CCC’s young Lions, down from last year’s Class L State Tournament.

“You can’t replicate speed in practice and you can’t replicate that kind of competitio­n, though we tried to in our early-season holiday play (losses to Notre Dame-Fairfield and Barrington, Rhode Island),” said Thomaston Coach Brian Mozelak.

To keep this one close, the Bears would have to keep up their outside shooting and give Harkness some relief.

Neither one happened. Sometimes dead-on from beyond the arc, the Bears hit just one more three in the game — a third-quarter shot by Nicole Decker. Harkness scored six more points in the second quarter, but just four more in the second half.

Meanwhile, the Lions hit threepoint­ers like it was their home court — eight for the game.

Thomaston was still in it early in the second quarter. Harkness’s turnaround jumper and fast break started with a Kylie Decker steal, closed the gap to 23-21. Nicole Decker found a seam for a drive, 27-23.

Then the wave hit — five points from Casper, a layup from Canning and a fast break by Pare in a 9-2 Northwest run crashed into the half for a 35-25 Lion lead. The Golden Bears were done. Nicole Decker’s three-pointer was their only score in the third quarter, just six more in the fourth as Casper kept rolling for 14 more points in the second half, alongside Rushin’s eight and single-basket contributi­ons from five more Lions.

By the end of the third quarter, the game was all Lions at 53-28.

“We’ve come a long way from the beginning of the season and we’ve had our ups and downs,” said Casper, who got used to being one of the biggest girls on the court starting in first grade.

“She’s made an impact on our team from the start of the season,” said Lion Coach Alison Connors. “In the CCC West, we’re used to playing schools twice our size. We’re battle tested.”

“I’ve watched a lot of their tapes. This is the best I’ve seen them play,” said Thomaston Coach Brian Mozelak. “I’m proud of our team. They’ve accomplish­ed a lot this season.”

Northwest Catholic goes up against No. 3 Somers, a 74-36 quarterfin­al winner over No. 22 North Branford, in Monday’s semifinals, at a time and place to be announced.

 ?? Peter Wallace/For Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Thomaston coach Brian Mozelak tries to keep his team motivated in a Class S quarterfin­al loss to Northwest Catholic on Wednesday night.
Peter Wallace/For Hearst Connecticu­t Media Thomaston coach Brian Mozelak tries to keep his team motivated in a Class S quarterfin­al loss to Northwest Catholic on Wednesday night.

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