By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – For the three scholastic girls basketball teams in town, the 2013 postseason was certainly a unique ride for each squad.
For Bristol Central, it probably felt like a huge weight was lifted from its collective shoulders and a memorable clash against eventual Class L champion Farmington almost fell the Rams’way.
For Bristol Eastern, there was a big first round destruction of a team. While in the ensuing game, the Lancers probably – and deservedly – felt cheated out of a victory.
For St. Paul, the squad had to tangle with an unpredictable – though familiar – tournament foe and while the Falcons might have lost their battle, they certainly shouldn’t have felt empty after a tough loss to Weaver because the team will be back and much improved for 2013-14.
Impressively, all three teams were back in the state tournament fold and – just as impressive – the Mum City’s finest hardwood warriors took the court and were highly successful in playoff action.
That’s especially true in Central’s case as the squad was back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and got a chance to show its wares not only against an outstanding Avon team but in a nip-and-tuck showing against soon to be Class L champion Farmington.
In turn, the Rams had some phenomenal performances from junior Chandler Walker, senior Lauren Bossi, and its sophomore backcourt of Ashley Elder and Erica Monsalve.
Walker posted an amazing double-double in the 52-26 victory over Avon as her 17 points and 17 rebounds loomed big for the visiting squad.
She also posted seven points in the 33-28 loss to Farmington but her defense – as well as Bossi’s on the court – kept the game against the Indians close.
When healthy, Walker proved to be one of the top forwards of all the CCC South and Bossi backed that play up as well with some spirited defense of her own.
Bossi also played extremely well in the postseason and averaged just under 11.0 points-per-game and also tallied a big double-double against Avon.
She posted 10 points and 10 rebounds against the Falcons while leading the charge against Farmington with a game-high 11 points in her final effort ever for Central.
The duo earned first team honors for their efforts while that sophomore backcourt of Elder and Monsalve were hungry for their first taste of postseason action.
Elder flipped in four three-pointers in postseason action while adding nine points-per-game, hitting for 10 points in the near loss to Farmington.
Monsalve earned second team honors while flashing in 12 points – including six free throws – in the 26-point victory over the Falcons.
Central, No. 26 in the Class L field, ended its outstanding season with an 11-11 ledger, its best record since its 13-9 ledger of 2002.
Bristol Eastern had an impressive 2012-13 season and snatched up a 14-6 regular season before entering tournament play as the 14th ranked squad in all of Class L.
Three Eastern players made the tournament first team while one other starter was named to the second.
Senior center Karissa Smith was sensational in two games as she led her squad in two very well played games.
For the tournament, she was Bristol’s top performer as Smith averaged 19.0 points, 10 rebounds and 2.0 blocks-per-game.
Smith hit a blazing 16-of-21 field goals (76.2 percent) while scooping up six offensive rebounds and snaring six steals over her two games.
Against Berlin in a five-point loss (55-50), Smith drilled 21 points and grabbed 13 points as Eastern fell to the Redcoats in overtime.
If Smith hadn’t picked up three cheap fouls in a matter of 75 seconds against Berlin -disqualifying the senior in her final game ever – Eastern would have advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class L fray.
Along with Smith’s outstanding postseason, sophomore teammate Daijia Brooks was pretty good herself and hit for double-figures in points during both contests.
Over the postseason, Brooks averaged 13.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists-per-game.
Brooks also tallied in 3.0 blocks and a steal-per-game while snaring nine offensive rebounds during Eastern’s run.
She had an amazing game in the 49-29 win over Guilford in first round play as her 13 points and game-high 18 rebounds was critical against the pesky visitors.
Freshman Jamella Shoultz showed why she’s one of the young bright spots on the basketball scene as well for Eastern. Against Guilford and Berlin, she averaged 10.5 rebounds-a-game against the lot.
The point-forward averaged 6.0 points, 4.0 assists, and 2.5 steals-per-game during postseason play.
Against Guilford, Shoultz poured in six points, seven assists, four steals and 11 big rebounds.
That trio were all first team choices in postseason action while junior Amanda Zdun made the second squad.
Zdun zipped in 11 points, snared four rebounds and snatched two steals during the 20-point victory over Guilford while against Berlin, her six points were critical late in the game.
Overall, she hit five three-pointers in tournament action while averaging 8.5 points and 3.0 assists-per-game.
St. Paul – finishing its campaign at 11-11 – played very well this season, qualifying for the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament and was rated 21st in a very busy Class M field.
The Falcons had a bit of a lousy draw as St. Paul earned a date with No. 12 Weaver – a very unpredictable squad full of a ton of surprises – but never backed down from the talented squad.
And credit to the Falcons, the squad was only down eight points at the half and were in shouting distance – down only ten by the end of three quarters – as St. Paul proved to be an irritant to the Beavers.
But in the end, Weaver zipped up a 45-31 win from Hartford.
Weaver made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Cromwell (60-44) and the Beavers proved to by a very good team this year.
But the young Falcons never quit and its two studs – sophomore guard Kelly McMahon and junior forward/center Theresa Swanke – once again showed why the team is in good hands next season and were both named to the all tournament second team.
Against the Beavers, the talented McMahon blasted in 10 points – including two three-pointers – while Swanke netted eight in the losing effort.
That squad will be even better next season and expect the Falcons to be an even tougher team to handle in NVL action.
For the first time in 11 years, all three teams saw some sort of postseason success and in 2013-14, those same three squads want to be there once again, playing basketball well into March.