Girls Basketball Class L Championship
Daniel Hand 50, Holy Cross 45
By Jimmy Zanor
Special to CIACsports.com
UNCASVILLE – Finally, the Hand-Madison girls basketball team got to party like it was 1999.
Junior guards Emma Sullivan and Gabby Egidio each scored a game-high 12 points and the second-seeded Tigers rallied from a seven point deficit in the second half to capture the Class L state championship with a 50-45 victory over Holy Cross-Waterbury on Sunday afternoon at The Mohegan Sun Arena.
“There were a couple times there where it looked like we had nothing left and our kids just dug deep every single time,” Hand coach Tim Tredwell said. “It was indicative of how they’ve been all year. They found a way. It’s just a special group, talent-wise and chemistry-wise. It’s unreal.”
This was the Hand’s second CIAC title. The Tigers defeated Killingly in the 1999 Class L final.
The top-seeded Crusaders, who ended Capital Prep’s four-year championship run with a 56-55 win over the Trailblazers in the semifinals, were also seeking their second CIAC title. Holy Cross defeated Career in the Class M final in 2007.
“I thought it was a tremendous game,” Holy Cross coach Frank Lombardo said. “The turnovers (26) definitely hurt us. Usually, we’re the team that looks stronger in the fourth quarter but today Hand looked pretty strong in that fourth quarter. You’ve got to give credit to Hand. They did not wilt.”
Senior guard Idalis Miranda score nine points, senior Isabel Plant had seven points, and junior forward Century McCartney grabbed a game-high eight rebounds for Holy Cross (25-3).
McCartney’s low post basket and a free throw from junior Meah Austin gave the Crusaders a 38-31 lead with 3:51 left in third quarter.
But Tigers junior forward Halle Freund drained a short jumper and freshman guard Sara Wohlgemuth (eight points) converted a nifty, left-handed driving layup to start a decisive 14-2 run.
Junior Hannah Martin’s basket with 28 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Tigers a 41-40 lead.
Freund’s foul-line jumper extended Hand’s lead to 47-41 midway through the fourth quarter.
“Once they went ahead 41-40, they went back to the zone and our shots didn’t fall,” Lombardo said. “We only made one basket in the fourth quarter. Hand’s guards are really quick. We haven’t seen that intense speed all year, even last week against Capital Pep.”
The Crusaders got as close as 47-44 on a three-point basket from sophomore Hannah Brown. But Tigers senior Kaitlyn Martin made a pair of 1-and-1 free throws to give Hand a 49-44 cushion with just 1:21 remaining.
“We’re a perserverance kind of team,” Egidio said. “We have so much determination. I knew with the three seniors (Gabby Martin, Colleen Caruth, and Kaitlyn Martin) leading us we wouldn’t lose this game. It feels awesome.”
After a see-saw first quarter – there were four lead changes – the Crusaders went on a 13-4 run, sparked by a pair of three-pointers from Miranda, to take a 27-17 advantage late in the second quarter.
Holy Cross led 33-23 after Allie Brown converted a fast break basket. But Sullivan scored five straight points, including a top-of-the-key three-pointer, and the Tigers trailed 33-28 at intermission.
“At halftime, we knew we had it,” Egidio said. “Everyone in the locker room was locked in. We were ready to go. As a team we worked so hard. In the second half, we really honed in on defense.”
Hand (24-4) reached the Class L final with tournament wins over Law, Windsor, Woodstock, and Pomperaug.
“It’s just a special season,” Tredwell said.. “There was never a moment where I thought these kids weren’t capable of doing something special.”