The Lions fell to top-seeded Canton, one game shy of making their first state championship appearance since 2015.
By Marlon Pitter
An unprecedented postseason run for the Northwest Catholic girls basketball team came to an end Friday night.
After defeating No. 5 SMSA, No. 12 Windham, and No. 4 East Hampton – all on the road – to advance to the Class S semifinals, the Lions fell to perennial power and top seed Canton 47-32 at Bulkeley High School in Hartford.
Erin Carucci scored a game-high 17 points for the Lions – 11 in the second half – but the Warriors’ team defense and postseason experience helped fend off Northwest Catholic (11-13). Abigail Charron and Allison Celmer scored 13 and 12 points for Canton respectively.
“Getting the ball in the basket – that was tough,” said Lions head coach Al Phillips. “We just had to work so much harder because of that, and we just couldn’t get a run going either.”
Northwest Catholic kept pace with Canton (26-1) early, but a two-point second quarter forced the Lions into an uphill battle. Northwest Catholic trailed 25-12 at halftime, a deficit intensified by the Lions’ inexperience and miscues as they tried to stage a comeback.
The Lions trailed by as many as 20 points late in the third quarter but brought the margin down to 13 with 2:09 left in the fourth. Carucci hit two of her four 3-pointers in the final quarter trying to spark a rally.
Despite the inconsistent success, Lions head coach Al Phillips lauded his team for the way they competed against a tough opponent.
“The three juniors we started, they were really up [for] this game. They felt like they had [the] poise to play in this game,” Phillips said. “I would say the last few games, the freshmen did remarkably well. … They did awesome here for their first time.”
The Warriors took a 6-0 lead to start the game, but the Lions went on an 8-2 run to tie the game late in the first quarter. Canton added five more points before a Northwest Catholic bucket to take a 13-10 lead after one quarter.
Northwest Catholic’s only bucket of the second quarter came at the 6:35 mark, slimming the margin to 15-12. From there, the Warriors held the Lions scoreless for the rest of the half.
Despite the tournament loss, the future remains bright for the Northwest Catholic. The Lions have no seniors and a core of key juniors and freshmen to build on their state tournament experience.
“I think they will have learned from this game,” said Phillips. “The nice thing is you have, really, the whole team coming back. As a first-year coach … I have a much better idea of who I have on the team and the work that needs to be done.”
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