WALLINGFORD — Liv Robles has saved the best for last as the Sheehan girls basketball team is heading to its first state championship game since 2000.
Four days after scoring a career-high 30 points in 13th-seeded Sheehan’s 75-55 Class M quarterfinal victory over No. 28 Weaver, Robles upped the bar with 36 points in Monday’s 62-59 semifinal win over No. 8 Berlin at an electric Plainville High School gym.
“I’ve just been working hard every day and my team has been supporting me so much to get me the ball in the post, and I couldn’t do it without them,” Robles said. “They kept feeding me the ball so I could score.”
In the process of leading the Titans to this weekend’s state championship game at Mohegan Sun, Robles became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,280 career points.
With the 66 points she scored in the last two games, Robles passed 1998 Sheehan grad Tara Carriero, whose mark of 1,236 had stood for 21 years. Carriero remains Sheehan’s all-time leader in rebounds (738), assists (369) and steals (478).
Robles, meanwhile, now has 454 points on the season, which is likely a program record as well.
“I’m happy as heck for Liv Robles,” Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “She’s been here through thick and thin for four years. I just can’t say enough about her performance and leadership. She’s going to go down as one of the great players in Sheehan history.”
On Monday, Robles set the tone with 13 points in the first quarter. She had 21 at the break.
But with Robles’ fellow standout forward in the post, Caitlyn Hunt, sitting out the final 11 minutes of the first half with foul trouble, the Titans fell behind by as many as 11 points, 33-22, with 3:12 left in the first half.
“We didn’t let that phase us,” Robles said. “We’ve been down more during the season and we didn’t let that bother us.”
Sheehan capped the quarter with an 11-3 run that pulled them to within 36-33 by the break.
During that run, Robles had an six points, including an old-fashioned 3-point play. She had three and-1’s in the contest.
“(Maddi) Larkin did a great job off the bench of taking those minutes,,” Busillo said. “We had such a big advantage inside, but when Hunt’s out, that goes away a bit. Liv stepped up. Liv was a scoring machine. I think she had the feeling that we weren’t losing tonight. So, good for Liv.”
Sophomore Hayleigh Lagase hit a trey during the run and freshman Sydney Rossacci calmly canned a pair from the line.
“In the locker room we were all hyped up,” Robles said. “We said we were winning this game and we didn’t come this far for nothing, so we gave it everything we had.”
The second half was vintage Sheehan. Hunt returned to the post and that allowed Robles to move around more on the perimeter in addition to her play in the paint. Directed by point guard Caitlyn Velez, the offense ran through Hunt inside.
“We are really good at adjusting to whatever situation we were in and we showed that tonight,” Robles said. “We played most of the first half without Cait Hunt, but Maddi came in and gave us everything we could.”
Hunt set up a Lagase 3-pointer to get the Titans going in the second half. Velez set all of that up with a steal.
Robles scored the final three hoops of the third quarter as Sheehan took a 48-46 lead heading into the fourth.
It was hardly smooth sailing down the stretch. The Titans saw a 6-point advantage turn into a 1-point deficit in the span of two minutes. Robles put the Titans on top 57-56 with a close-range shot with 1:48 left and assisted Hunt’s bucket with 1:16 on the clock to put Sheehan up for good.
“This was really a dream of mine,” Robles said of making the state finals. “I think my dad’s crying in the parking lot. He’s definitely jumping all around.
“That was our No. 1 goal: Mohegan.”
The day and time of the Class M final has yet to be announced. Sheehan, however, knows its opponent: No. 2 Cromwell, a 51-47 winner over No. 3 Kolbe Cathedral in Monday’s other semifinal.
This will be Cromwell’s fifth state championship appearance in the last nine years. The Panthers won Class M crowns in 2013 and 2016. The Shoreline Conference champs go into this year’s final at 24-3.
Sheehan is playing in a state final for the first time since falling to Morgan 53-48 in Class M in 2000. The Titans are seeking their first state title since beating Ledyard 61-45 to win Class L in 1976.
For now, the 2018-19 Titans are going to enjoy what they’ve done. Winners of 12 of their last 14, the Titans go into the final at 19-7.
“It means everything,” Busillo said. “For me personally, it’s nice for my program. I’m happy for this group. I think every girl I’ve coached here owns a piece of this because they’ve been a part of the process. We are going to try to get one more, but we are going to enjoy this over the next few days and soak this in.”