AP NEWS

Girls Basketball Ten things to look for in the CIAC tournament

February 23, 2019

NO GUARANTEES

Storyline: The four No. 1 seeds, Norwalk, Notre Dame-Fairfield, Northwestern and Canton are certainly not guaranteed a trip to Mohegan Sun. Over the past three seasons, only two No. 1 seeds, RHAM in L last season and Cromwell in M in 2016, have rode the No. 1 seed all the way to a championship.

You should know: Of the No. 1 seeds, Notre Dame has never won a title but has played in six finals; Norwalk and Canton have each played in five finals, winning two and Northwestern is 1-for-2 in championship game appearances.

MERCY’S WORLD

Storyline: Want to win the Class LL title? Then at some point you are going to likely encounter defending champion Mercy. The last time the Tigers did not reach at least the quarterfinals of the LL tournament was in 2004. In that time, they won it all twice, were runners-up four times and lost in the semifinals four times. Mercy comes in as the No. 9 seed and will face No. 24 NFA in the first round.

You should know: Mercy was on fire, ending the regular season with 13-straight in-state wins before going down in the first round of the SCC tournament (its earliest exit in the SCCs since 2003).

PRIMETIME FOR EAST LYME

Storyline: The history of individual senior players stepping up in their final state tournament is well documented. East Lyme’s Megan Bauman is one such player. The guard is going to leave as East Lyme’s leading scorer, with over 1,300 career points, as well as the school leader in assists and 3-pointers made. She would also like to leave with the school’s first state championship. The team lost by two in the quarterfinals last season to Wethersfield and opens the Class L tournament against fellow ECC contender Fitch.

You should know: 2008 was East Lyme’s only appearance in a state final, losing 59-48 to Kolbe.

GLORY DAYS

Storyline: The last time Norwalk finished with an undefeated regular season was 2000. That season culminated in the Bears’ last state championship with a 47-45 win over NFA in the final. This version of the Bears is similarly built on defense, depth and a different leading scorer every night. Seniors Ashley Wilson, Naeva Rene and Saana Boyd are the heart of the squad hoping to take Norwalk back to the glory days. The No. 1 Bears will open against No. 32 Greenwich.

You should know: Only two teams, Trumbull (41-37) and New London (49-47) were within 10 points of Norwalk during the regular season.

MOTHER OF DRAGONS

Storyline: Hamden has two girls doing the dirty work in the paint in junior Rebecca Oberman-Levine and senior Makaela Johnson. Then they have the hammer in senior Taniyah Thompson who can score inside and out, go to the basket off the dribble or pulling up for a jumper. Coach Amanda Forcucci has the Dragons primed to take flight.

You should know: The Dragons have never played for a state championship in girls basketball.

WARRIORS ON THE MARCH

Storyline: Few teams dominated their conference schedule quite like Windsor who were barely challenged in the CCC regular season and did not lose to an in-state opponent all year. That earned the Warriors the No. 2 seed in the Class L tournament. After going out in the quarterfinals last year, Windsor is dead set on earning a trip to the state championship.

You should know: The last state title for Windsor came in 2004.

OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS

Storyline: As boys coach, Mike Walsh took Trinity Catholic to 13 state final appearances, winning it all 7 times. Walsh retired after last season but was called into duty for the girls when their coach resigned in late December. The Crusaders are the No. 7 seed in Class S and will host No. 26 Thomaston in the first round. It is likely Walsh’s lone season coaching the girls but with him at the helm and experienced seniors Iyanna Lops and Kyah Nowlin, the Crusaders should be firmly in the mix in Class S.

You should know: Trinity won Class S state titles in 2002, 03 and 06 but have not been back to a final since.

50 AND UNDER CROWD

Storyline: The opening game of the season, Capital Prep scored 50 points against New London. The Whalers did not allow another opponent over 50 the rest of the season. The defense is anchored by seniors KD Spencer Roman and the 6-foot-2-inch Taina Pagan. New London is the No. 2 seed in Class LL, opening at home against Darien, creating the Blue Wave vs. the Whalers.

You should know: New London won Class LL in 2017 and entered the 2018 tournament unbeaten before falling to Enfield in the quarterfinals.

SOUTH WEST SHINING

Storyline: Notre Dame-Fairfield is the No. 1 seed in Class L and Kolbe Cathedral is No. 3 in Class M. Neither of those teams were finalists in the SWC tournament, with Newtown and Bethel earning the trip. It speaks to the depth and quality in the SWC and it could show itself throughout the tournament. No. 11 Bethel in Class M and No. 6 Pomperaug in Class L are teams to watch, as is No. 5 Newtown in the LL field.

You should know: New Fairfield in Class M in 2017 was the last SWC team to win a state championship.

COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT

Storyline: It is going to come up during the tournament, so, let us have it. Notre Dame-Fairfield is the top seed in L, Kolbe is No. 3 in M with East Catholic, Sacred Heart and Holy Cross in the field and St. Paul and Trinity are among the favorites in Class S. They are schools of choice and they play with public schools. Let the chorus of complaining, right or wrong, begin.

You should know: In the last two seasons, eight CIAC girls basketball championships have been handed out. One of those went to a school of choice (Mercy in LL in 2018).