Hall’s season continues after a nailbiter against 12-seed Wilton in the second round of the state tournament.
By Marlon Pitter
When Hall needed someone to step up in the fourth quarter, Amber Raisner did just that.
The senior co-captain scored 14 of her 19 points in the final eight minutes, leading the way for the fifth-seeded Hall High School girls basketball team to defeat 12-seed Wilton 52-47 in the second round of the CIAC Class LL state tournament at home in West Hartford on Thursday night.
“We knew it was win or go home, and we were like, ‘We don’t get another game to redeem ourselves,’” Raisner said. “‘This is it. This is our last half. This is our last quarter,’ and we gave it all.’”
Down 33-32 to start the fourth quarter, it only took Raisner eight seconds to bury a 3-pointer to put Hall ahead 35-33. She followed with a layup to bring Hall’s advantage to four with 7:05 to play in the game.
Claire Gulbin made a deep 3-pointer with 5:47 remaining to help Wilton narrow the margin to one point at 41-40. The senior scored a game-high 20 points for Wilton but did not find the basket again after that shot.
Wilton got into the bonus as Lauren Robertson converted both 1-and-1 free throws to take a 42-41 lead at the 4:45 mark. The visitors continued to inch ahead, making one of two free throws on successive trips to the line to take a 44-41 lead.
With 3:05 remaining, Raisner made her third 3-pointer to tie the game at 44.
When Hall got into the bonus, its three seniors each converted 1-and-1s to take the lead and pull away. Lexi Gellerman, who finished with 15 points, knocked down a pair to put Hall up 48-47 with 1:20 left. Maddy Mandyck followed with two makes from the charity stripe to stretch the lead to three and bring her point total to 12 with 26.6 seconds remaining.
While Raisner made a bevy of clutch baskets early in the fourth, her two free throws late in the quarter gave Hall a 52-47 advantage with 11.5 seconds on the clock, effectively sealing the game for the hosts.
While many in the gym could sense victory, Hall head coach Brittany Huggins said she was tense until the final moments.
“There really was no relief, actually,” she said. “I was crazy until it said 0:00. Shout-out to Maddy, Amber, and Lexi for making some big-time free throws down the stretch. Way to step up.”
Only four players scored for Hall – Olivia Bonee with six along with Raisner, Gellerman, and Mandyck. Gulbin was the only player in double figures for Wilton.
Hall did not shoot as many free throws as Wilton, but the hosts made them count as they knocked in 11 of 12 (92 percent) compared to 11 of 17 for the visitors (65 percent).
With the win, Hall travels to 4-seed Simsbury for the quarterfinal round on Monday night. Hall went on a 13-game winning streak to finish the regular season, but the team still looks to avenge a Jan. 3 loss to the Trojans on the road.
“It’s redemption because we lost to them earlier in the season, and we know that we’re gonna give it all we got,” Raisner said. “They’d better watch out because we’re not gonna go down without a fight.”
Hall making the state quarterfinals is a new milestone under Huggins, but she said there’s still more for the team to play for.
“For me, personally, this is the furthest we’ve gone in the state [tournament],” said Huggins. “Last year, we lost in this [round] and that feeling wasn’t great, so I think that the girls are really, really excited, and I told them to feel this win but don’t be satisfied.”
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