Eagles grounded in semifinal loss
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland - posted Tue., Mar. 15, 2011
Tolland girls' basketball coach Rocco Sansone has taken his team to the state semifinals four of the past five seasons and lost each of those matches. But, after his team lost another heartbreaker to Windham on March 14, he was smiling, because his team gave their all.
Tolland appeared to have the game in hand, jumping out to an early lead and keeping Windham from scoring until almost three minutes had passed in the game. Tolland was up 16-9 after the first, and by halftime had extended their lead to 34-19.
The Wippets' defense seemed to get more aggressive as the game went on, but Tolland kept that pace and were up by 18 at the end of three. Windham, however, refused to give up, found yet another gear and held Tolland to 12 in the fourth, while putting up 30 of their own points, to force overtime.
“We just didn't make foul shots,” Sansone said. “They started putting people in the line, and once they did that, we missed foul shots. They started making them and gained momentum.”
Overtime was ripe with fouls, and Windham played a tenacious full-court press for much of it, limiting Tolland's chances and forcing just enough errors for the 67-64 win.
“As a competitor, I'm mad. I want to win,” Sansone said. “But, as a coach, it's been a great year. From the first practice to today, every day it's been a pleasure coming to practice. Every day it's been a pleasure watching these kids play. They've all worked hard, they all came in and did their thing. They gave me everything they had.”
With everyone on the roster returning next year, including 1,000-pointer Kristen Schatzlein, the Eagles are expected to be just as good, if not better next season.
“Pretty much everybody will be back, and we'll go at it again,” Sansone said. “We'll be a year older, and hopefully a year smarter. I can't complain—this was a perfect year. The main thing is I'm just sad that it's got to end.”