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Hartford Courant

Northwest Catholic girls basketball weathers late-season losing streak, advances to state final for the first time in eight years

By Lori Riley, Hartford Courant,

2023-03-14

SIMSBURY – Between Jan. 26 and Feb. 9, the Northwest Catholic girls basketball lost five straight games. A few were close. The Lions lost to one team, Farmington, twice in that span.

And because of their conference record, they didn’t make it to the CCC tournament.

They did win their last two games and then had two weeks to think about all that before the Class S tournament started.

Two weeks later, on Monday night, Northwest Catholic advanced to the state final at Mohegan Sun for the first time since 2015, beating Somers 65-56 in the Class S semifinal game at Simsbury High.

The 10th seeded Lions (16-8) will face No. 16 Kolbe Cathedral, a 64-35 winner over Windham Tech Monday night, on either Saturday or Sunday at a time to be determined in the Class S championship.

“We went through a little struggle in the middle of those losses,” said Northwest freshman Abby Casper, who led the team in scoring with 20 points. “Losing to Farmington the second time was pretty hard, but after Senior Night, that game [a win over Litchfield] was really big for us, we all started playing together again. Then we played Southington and we beat them. Those last two games really helped us.

“We just started figuring things out more. We started doing some new plays that worked and our defense was improving. It’s helping us now, all the close games we played this season. We played a lot of games like this.”

Northwest Catholic had beaten Somers 66-41 on Dec. 29. Monday’s game was much closer.

“A lot happens between December and March,” Northwest coach Alison Connors said. “Teams get better.”

The score was tied at 21 after the first quarter and Northwest held a 36-31 lead at halftime. The Lions came out in the third quarter and Maeve Rushin and Lily Pare, who had 19 points, knocked down consecutive 3-pointers. After Casper had a putback midway through the quarter, the Lions led 47-34. Somers would cut the lead to seven points a few times but couldn’t get past that margin.

“Our shots started to fall more and we had some good ball movement,” Casper said. “Our defense started to improve a little bit and the pressing at the beginning of the third quarter – that was big for us too.”

The last time Northwest went to the state final, the Lions lost to Capital Prep in the Class L game. Connors has been the coach for three years so nobody knows what it’s like to play at the Mohegan Sun.

The Lions only have two seniors but the two freshmen, Casper and Maeve Staunton, who had 12 points, don’t play like freshmen.

“My first game against Glastonbury, I was pretty nervous,” Casper said. “But as the season progressed, I got more comfortable.

“I’m super excited.”

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