E.O. Smith girls’ basketball heads to finals at Mohegan Sun
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Mon., Mar. 14, 2011
The E.O. Smith Panthers and the Torrington Red Raiders girls’ basketball teams put on an exciting show for a large crowd on March 11 at Plainville High School. It was the semifinal round of the Class L state tournament, and both teams entered with similar records. Torrington was the number-three seed, and had beaten RHAM in the quarterfinal round. E.O. Smith was seeded at number two, and defeated Platt during its quarterfinal.
The first quarter was pretty much shot-for-shot, but Smith pulled ahead a bit during the second. Contributing to the Panthers’ run were Murphy Murad, who scored after a breakaway run, and Maggie Sundberg, with a nifty move beneath the basket that led to another two points. The score at the half was 32-24, Smith.
The Raiders were down, 46-42, when All-State guard Sarah Royals fouled out with less than two minutes left on the clock. The Panthers missed a number of free-throw opportunities during the final minutes. Morgan Olander made her second free-throw after being fouled with 1:39 to go, bringing the score to 47-43 Panthers. E.O. Smith coach Kirk Murad addressed his team during a time-out seconds later. “I want this,” he said. “You’ve got to want it, too.”
With 1:16 on the clock, Olander was again sent to the line. This time she made both shots, to bring the Panthers’ lead to six points. At 1:01, a shot by Torrington literally hung on the rim before finally falling to cut the Panthers’ lead to four. When Olander was fouled again with 53.1 seconds left, she made her first shot but missed her second. It was 50-45, Smith.
At 35.1, it was Torrington’s Aly Otis headed to the foul line. Otis made both shots, putting Torrington within three points. Olander sank both baskets when she was once again sent to the foul line at 30.7, giving E.O. Smith some breathing room with a score of 52-47. The final score of the game was 52-49.
“Where we going, baby?” asked Murad during a post-game huddle. “Mohegan Sun,” came the jubilant reply.
Olander said she didn’t stress during those crucial trips to the foul line. “I tried not to think about it too much,” she said. “It’s hard to block out the noise. I just tried to concentrate on my free throws.” Asked if she was excited about a trip to the Sun, “We’re so excited,” said Olander with a smile.
The E.O. Smith Panthers will take on the Hillhouse Academics for the championship during the weekend of March 18-19 at the Mohegan Sun Arena, date and time to be announced. Visit www.casciac.org for details.