Girls Basketball Wildcats knock off Pomperaug
BETHEL — It was likely the hardest-fought game either team had this season which made sense given the stakes.
A game yearning for one team to make plays finally tilted after 30 minutes of back-and-forth action Friday night.
The Bethel girls basketball team booked its place in the SWC semifinals behind a late surge to topple Pomperaug 42-32. The No. 4-5 matchup was as even as expected before the Wildcats hit key shots down the stretch.
The Wildcats will face No. 1 ND-Fairfield, which defeated Brookfield in the quarters. Newtown beat New Fairfield and Kolbe defeated Weston to set up the other semifinal.
“Definitely when it’s playoff time everyone is going a little harder,” said Bethel junior Maranda Nyborg. “There’s more to fight for. … Our motto is take it one game at a time, we took this and now we’re going to rest up for Monday.”
It was a pair of freshmen who delivered the knockout blow against the Panthers. Brooke Lacey and Ruby Ackerman combined for six points during a 12-2 run that ended the game in the final two-plus minutes. They combined for 15 points Friday.
“They’re not freshmen in our eyes anymore,” said Wildcats coach Anderson Rawlins. “They’ve played varsity for a full season; we’re in the postseason now, they’re officially not freshmen. We count on them; the combination of the two of them played hard and executed for us.”
The game was deadlocked at 30-30 which summed up the intense defensive struggle between the sides. The Panthers were unable to respond to the surge as few shots fell on this night.
“It was a tough shooting night, we couldn’t get a shot to fall,” said Panthers coach Joe Fortier. “I told the kids it’s a tough matchup and I thought they fought hard. … We couldn’t get that shot to go in.”
With five equally potent teams capable of winning the conference, two of them were pitted in the quarterfinals. Bethel (16-5) closed the regular season with 10 straight wins while Pomperaug (15-6) won nine of 10.
“These top five teams are really great, everyone is playing good basketball right now,” Rawlins said. “It’s going to come down to execution and composure. Just having fun and putting the ball in the rim; it’s going to be great.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Maranda Nyborg, Bethel: Made several key passes out of double teams to beat Pomperaug’s press down the stretch, and converted a 3-point play in the final frame. Finished with 12 points
“I thought we came in and had a hell of a season,” said Fortier, who had to replace four starters heading into the year. “It’s going to burn a little; we have a nice draw for the states.”
“I think it’s super rewarding because we work so hard every day to dig ourselves out of holes we get ourselves into,” Nyborg said. “I feel like just seeing my teammates shoot the ball with confidence and I trust them to hit those shots.”
BETHEL 42, POMPERAUG 32
Marina Lambiase 3 2-2 10 Cara McGettigan 3 3-4 9 Jada Stietzel 2 1-2 5 Molly Flanagan 2 0-0 4 Maggie Lee 1 2-2 4 Maddie Villa 0 0-2 0. Totals: 11 8-12 32.
Mia Prazeres 0 1-2 1 Vicky Gracy 13 0-0 7 Brooke Lacey 3 0-0 7 Ruby Ackerman 4 0-0 8 Gabi Mendonca 3 0-0 7 Maranda Nyborg 3 6-7 12. Totals: 16 7-9 42.
POMPERAUG 6 3 12 11 — 32
BETHEL 4 6 12 20 — 42
3-pointers: P—Lambaise 2; B—Gracy, Lacey, Mendonca.