Bacon Academy Bobcats claim Class L title

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Tue., Mar. 20, 2012
The Bacon Academy Bobcats with their Connecticut Class L championship plaque. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
The Bacon Academy Bobcats with their Connecticut Class L championship plaque. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

Bacon Academy junior Taylor McLaughlin said that she remembers sitting in the stands of the Mohegan Sun Arena in 2009 as the Bobcats defeated the Berlin Redcoats for the Class M title, watching as Brooke Bailey hit the winning shot with about four seconds remaining.  Little did she know that three years later, she would be living her own “Brooke Bailey moment,” as the third-seeded Bacon Academy Bobcats girls’ basketball team pulled out a stunning come-from-behind victory over E.O. Smith of Storrs, the tournament’s #1 seed, to claim the Class L state championship by a final score of 38-34.

Trailing most of the game by as much as 10 points, it was looking bleak for the Bobcats in the third quarter, as they failed to score until Carlee Putnam hit a three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining.

“Our third quarter was absolutely terrible,” said head coach Dave Shea. “I told them that they were getting lazy, they’re looking for excuses,” he said.

“They were concerned with running plays, and when it comes right down to it, it’s not the plays. It’s the heart, and the commitment to defense, the really wanting it. This is what wins games,” said Shea.

“It seemed like they were scoring so much more than us in the third quarter,” said Putnam, who said she and the others were somewhat concerned, but regained their confidence in the fourth quarter.

“Thank God Carlee Putnam hit that three,” said McLaughlin. The basket reduced Smith’s lead to a less-daunting four points, and gave her team some momentum heading into the final quarter.

“In the fourth quarter we had a little bit more momentum, a little more fight,” said Putnam. Knowing that they had come from behind before, “I knew we could do it again,” she said.

And they did do it again, thanks to their own strong defense, which held E.O. Smith to five fourth-quarter points, while the Bobcats reeled off the final 12 points of the game, capped by a steal by McLaughlin with about 45 seconds to go. She raced down the court, trailed closely by the Panthers Taylor Vonasek, to sink a layup, giving the Bobcats a lead they would keep until the end. Two clutch free throws by Sarah Rogers sealed the victory. McLaughlin finished with a game-high 13 points.

“We crept back, and then I thought, ‘We might have a chance to win this.’ Then, all of a sudden we get a basket, a couple of foul shots. It really amazed me,” said Shea of his team’s finish. Shea said that he knew early in the season that the team had potential, but was unsure they would make it this far once the rest of the league became familiar with their style of play. He gave the E.O. Smith team credit for playing a stifling defense throughout the game. “They took away a lot of stuff today,” he said.

“When we started the season, I didn’t think we would be winning the Class L state championship. I didn’t even think that a few weeks ago,” he said. And perhaps this underdog mentality helped spur his team on.

“We came in as the underdogs, and a lot of people doubted us this season,” said McLaughlin after the victory. “It’s good to have this feeling right now. That people doubted us, but we came out on top.” 

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