BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern girls basketball team turned an 0-3 start into an impressive 13-7 finish to the regular season – reversing the tough fortunes of the year before.
That 2017-18 squad played well but managed just a 7-13 ledger with a tough Central Connecticut Conference slate of games, leading to a No. 32 CIAC Class LL tournament ranking and a showdown against top seeded New London that led to 40-point blowout (62-22).
But that was last year and a much more seasoned squad won its last five games this time around – including eight out its final ten – to earn a home seed for the playoffs.
And guess whose back in the Class L bracket this year?
Eastern gladly took the No. 9 ranking in the Class L bracket and started its postseason jaunt against No. 24 Waterford from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol this past Monday.
Those other Lancers finished up play in a very tough shoreline league, the ECC, at 8-12 and took its lumps against some very good teams.
The only like opponent for both squads this year was Rocky Hill – a team Waterford defeated 58-45 back on Jan. 5. Eastern swept the season-series against the Terriers behind wins of 62-55 and 57-40 over the second half of the campaign.
Eastern will go into battle with newly minted CCC South All-Conference players Jordan Ouellette and Ciara Collins along with second team selection Paige McLaughlin.
Meredith Forman, Avery Arbuckle, Sage Scarritt, Julia Gettings and third guard Cali Doyon have enough firepower to get Eastern deep in the playoffs if everything falls into place.
A potential date at No. 8 Naugatuck or a home contest with No. 25 Avon could come on Feb. 28 in second round play.
That was the fun in the Class L bracket but over in Class S, St. Paul Catholic is hoping for a return to Uncasville as the No. 3 seed.
The Falcons ended the regular season fray at an excellent 18-2 ledger and, on that very same Monday, battled No. 30 Coventry of the NCCC.
The Patriots went 8-12 in regular season play but picked up wins against many magnet schools.
St. Paul Catholic might be an impossible squad for Coventry to conquer with the likes of All-NVL performers Janessa Gonzalez and Jade Udoh at the ready.
Throw in performers like Olivia Heslin, Catherine Ciampi, Ashley Suzio, Emma Cretella, Kailyn Bielecki, Morgan Kolb, and McKenzie Gauthier and the Falcons were more than set for state tournament play.
St. Paul Catholic had a tournament warm-up against Holy Cross in the finals of the Naugatuck Valley League tournament – winning its second title over the past three years with a 57-51 win to move the Falcons to 21-2 overall.
The goal for St. Paul Catholic this time around is to play – and win – three home tournament games with the likes of No. 14 Parish Hill, No. 19 East Granby, No. 6 Putnam, No. 27 Westbrook, No. 11 Bloomfield, and No. 22 Abbott Tech standing in the way.
If St. Paul Catholic can play its way into the semifinals, the contest will take place on a neutral site with advancement to Mohegan Sun, and a shot at the Class S championship on the line.
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