SOUTHINGTON — Sheehan girls basketball took its place among the state’s elite at the annual CIAC Girls Basketball Luncheon at the Aqua Turf on Wednesday morning.
The Titans are among the eight squads who have reached the state finals..
The teams learned shortly before Wednesday’s event what time slot they’d occupy this weekend at Mohegan Sun Arena. In Class M, Sheehan will square off with Cromwell on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.
But Wednesday was not about the X’s and O’s. The event was a celebration of making it to the state finals. One representative spoke from each of the eight schools. Speaking for Sheehan was its all-time leading scorer, senior Liv Robles.
“Honestly, it still hasn’t sunk in that we are going to Mohegan Sun,” Robles said. “It’s just unbelievable. We are still in shock, when I wake up in the morning and I realize again that we are going to Mohegan.
“It will sink in the most when we get off the bus and go into the arena. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The other three girls’ state finals this weekend feature No. 2 New London and No. 1 Norwalk in the Class LL game on Saturday at 3 p.m., No. 19 Daniel Hand and No. 4 Hillhouse in an All-SCC Class L final Saturday at 6:15 p.m. and No. 7 Trinity Catholic and No. 1 Canton playing for Class S supremacy on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
The Class M contest that follows at 3:30 p.m. between No. 13 Sheehan and No. 2 Cromwell caps the girls’ slate.
This is Sheehan’s third overall trip to the state finals and first since 2000. The Titans are seeking their second-ever state title. The first came in 1976.
“They are just so excited,” Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “They are excited and their parents are excited, and I know my family is over the top for this.
“This is a great experience and I want us all to enjoy it,” Busillo continued. “The message I just gave them is to make sure they enjoy and get their phones out and take pictures and post what you need to post, but when it comes time to prepare that we make sure we all dial it in and focus. We are going up there for a reason, not only for the experience. We want to take a state title home to Sheehan. That’s job No. 1 why we are here.”
The Titans were soaking it in Wednesday, taking a team photo and various selfies throughout the Aqua Turf’s Wagon Room.
Sheehan goes into Sunday’s contest with a 19-7 record. The Titans have won seven of their last eight following a three-game losing streak to Mercy, Hillhouse and Law.
“(The season) could have gone the other way at that point,” Busillo said. “To their credit, they fought their way through it and are playing some pretty good basketball. When we win or when we lose, we turn the page. I don’t find any value reliving bad moments for long periods of time.”
Sheehan’s resilience was truly evident in Monday’s 62-59 semifinal victory over No. 8 Berlin at Plainville. The Titans overcame a 11-point, first-half deficit.
Robles has torn up the tournament competition, getting stronger with each step up the ladder. The senior forward hit for a career-high 30 points in the quarterfinals against Weaver, then topped that with 36 in the semifinals against Berlin.
“Even on the bus home after the Berlin game, we were still all in shock and I still don’t believe it has sunk it,” Sheehan junior Maddi Larkin said.
Waiting for the Titans on Sunday is Cromwell, which claimed its fourth straight Shoreline Conference championship this year and stands at 24-3.
In Monday’s 51-47 semifinal win over No. 3 Kolbe Cathedral, Cromwell’s Vanessa Stolstajner made three out of four from the line with 25 seconds left after a Kolbe foul and technical. Stolstajner, only a junior, has already eclipsed 1,000 points.
“It was a game that went back and forth and the score remained the same for the last few minutes,” Cromwell coach Kelly Maher said. “It was a defensive battle. We both forced turnovers and they forced turnovers.
“We broke through and got the foul and Vanessa hit 3-for-4 from the line. Then we got the ball back. We thought they would foul us right away and they allowed us to take time off the clock, which was nice. Then Vanessa went to the line and made two. They actually had three good looks at the end and we were able to hold on.”
Both teams persevered through late deficits against difficult semifinal foes to make it to Sunday’s state championship.
On Wednesday, it was all smiles.
On Sunday, it will all be business, with everything on the line.
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