ON DECK: Going all-in as a fresh week brings a full house and high stakes

ON DECK: Going all-in as a fresh week brings a full house and high stakes



The hour has come for the envelope to be pushed and the presses to be held.

Over the course of Monday afternoon and evening, one area girls basketball team (Sheehan), two area hockey squads (Sheehan and the Lyman Hall Co-op) and a fair number of area swimmers will hit the court, rink and pool in a bid to win state championships or keep hopes alive.

In the case of the swimmers, go-for-gold time is now. All four CIAC divisional championship meets are Monday.

In the case of basketball and hockey, the semfinal round is at hand, with championship berths on the line.

In the case of all, frontiers terra and aqua await blazing. Aside from Sheehan senior diver Andrew Buehler, no area individual swimmer in the mix this year has won a state championship.

Ditto for the basketball and hockey teams. Sheehan hasn’t played in a state girls basketball championship game since March 2000. In other words, exactly one year before any current Lady Titan was born.

As for the Sheehan and Lyman Hall Co-op hockey teams, neither has ever reached a state final. The drought could be washed away by an all-Wallingford Division III championship game on Thursday night.

First, the Titans and Trojans must take care of business in tonight’s semifinal doubleheader at Yale’s Ingalls Rink. Sheehan, the No. 4 seed, takes on No. 1 Daniel Hand in the opener at 5:30 p.m. No. 2 LH follows against the No. 3 Newington Co-op around 7:30.

About the same time, the No. 13 Sheehan girls will be tipping off at Plainville High School in the Class M semifinals against No. 8 Berlin.

About the same time, the Cheshire boys swim team will be in the thick of it in Class L at Southern Connecticut State, led by No. 1 seeds Sam Hanke (backstroke), Joe Cannata (breaststroke) and its top-seeded 200 medley relay.

About the same time, the Sheehan boys swim team will be giving it a go in Class S at Wesleyan, led by sophomore Joey Zellner (No. 2 breaststroke, No. 3 100 freestyle) and its second-seeded medley relay.

You get the picture. Contenders will be bullish, and deadline is going to be a bear.

Cheshire and Sheehan, it must be noted, do not have the pool market cornered. In Class LL, which competes in the afternoon at SCSU, Southington has a championship heat qualifier in junior Tyler Heidgerd (200 freestyle). So does the Meriden Co-op in senior Jake Donlon (50 free).

Donlon will also appear in the championship heat of the 200 freestyle relay with junior Alexander Flynn and fellow seniors Hunter Bernabuddi and Julio Hernandez.

Cheshire will be a contender in the Class L team chase. The Rams have 13 seeds in championship heats in all but two events.

Hanke and Cannata are the big dogs as No. 1 seeds. They are also are on the top-seeded medley relay and second-seeded 200 free relay with junior Andrew Lou. The trio teams with senior Ankit Sahasrabudhe on the medley and freshman Shane Wynne on the 200 free.

Hanke stays in the pool for the 200 individual freestyle, where he’s seeded No. 4. Hanke won that event at the SCC championships along with the backstroke.

Cannata, as the second seed, is one of three Cheshire swimmers to make the state finals for the 200 IM. Wynne (No. 5) and sophomore Evan Levine (No. 8) are also in the championship heat of that event.

Wynne is also No. 5 in 100 butterfly. Lou and senior Peter Levens are 7-8 in the 100 free.

Another Cheshire senior, Richmond Le, is No. 6 in the breaststroke, while freshman Vincent Zhu makes his state debut with Levens, Wynne and Levine on the sixth-seeded 400 free relay.

Sheehan, coming off its second straight SCC Division II championship, is in line for a good showing in Class S. Qualifying in two individual championship heats along with Joey Zellner was Adam DiDomenico. The junior is No. 6 in both the 100 freestyle and backstroke.

DiDomenico and Zellner will also combine with Andrew Buehler on two relays that have made the final heats. The trio teams with junior Adam Shoshani on the second-seeded 200 free relay and with senior R.J. Zellner on the No. 4 medley.

All this swimming means DiDomenico and the boys won’t be courtside in Plainville when the Sheehan girls tip-off with Berlin. Too bad. It stands to be a good matchup. Berlin is 19-4, Sheehan 18-7.

The Redcoats advanced with a 69-55 victory over a Jonathan Law team that split with Sheehan during the regular season. Then again, Berlin was tested in the opening rounds by Plainville and Ansonia, each time getting by with two-point wins.

Sheehan, meanwhile, has been storming through the brackets. The Titans won by an average of 28 points against Prince Tech, Sacred Heart and Weaver.

Sheehan’s 50-38 victory in Waterbury over Sacred Heart in the second round was the most pivotal so far. The Hearts were the No. 4 seed.

The Titans are led by Olivia Robles. The senior forward, now at 1,244 points for her career, is coming off a career-high 30 points in Thursday’s 75-55 quarterfinal win over Weaver. She is averaging 16.9 points and 9.0 rebounds a game.

Sheehan, though, is hardly a team of one. Robles’ post partner, sophomore Caitlyn Hunt, averages 9.4 points and 6.0 rebounds.

Junior Maddie Larkin and sophomore Hayleigh Lagase are both putting up 6.5 points a night. Sophomore point guard Courtney Velez has been good for 5.0 points while dishing 4.0 assists.

The Sheehan-Berlin survivor will be bound for Mohegan Sun Arena this weekend to play the winner of No. 2 Cromwell and No. 3 Kolbe Cathedral. That semifinal plays tonight at Maloney at 7 p.m.

As for hockey, it’s not difficult to imagine an all-Wallingford Division III final. While Sheehan is going up against a No. 1 seed in Daniel Hand, the Titans have won 9 of their last 10 and, during that span, have averaged 5.6 goals a game.

Junior forward Devin Napoli leads the way. He’s registered a hat trick in three straight games, most recently in Thursday’s 12-3 quarterfinals romp over JBWA, and now has 18 goals in 13 games played.

All-SCC second-teamer Anthony Romano, a sophomore, has a team-high 23 goals for Sheehan.

This is a team, however, wheeling out more than one potent forward line. Romano’s twin brother Joey has 19 goals. The Festa brothers, senior Jake (16) and sophomore Luke (13), have combined for 29. Sophomore Joey Richo has 14.

At the back end, the Titans have a defense anchored by All-SCC second-team goalie Tyler Robertson, the Most Outstanding Player of the SCC/SWC Division III conference tourney for a second straight year.

Hand’s defense is equally formidable. Backstopped by sophomore goalie Eric Dillner and All-SCC first-team defenseman Ian Rice, the Tigers have yet to allow a goal in the state tournament, blanking the Redhawks (7-0) and Newtown (5-0).

Offensively, Hand is well-balanced. Six different scorers have 10 goals or more, led by Ethan Massey (16) and Tatum Fitzmaurice (15). Michael McKeon, an All-SCC second-team forward, has 12 goals and 22 assists.

Add it all up and it should be a whale of a first semifinal at “The Whale.” Sheehan (18-5-1) defeated Hand 2-1 in the conference semifinals. Hand (18-4-1) defeated Sheehan 5-3 late in the regular season. The rubber match decides who plays for a state title.

The survivor of Lyman Hall (16-7-0) and Newington (17-6-0) will be waiting. These two co-ops have followed similiar paths to the semifinals. While they did not meet in the regular season, they had great success against common opponents. Both beat BBD, Milford, JBWA, Shepaug and Newtown. Both lost to Cheshire.

Both have also rebounded nicely in the state tournament after falling in their conference semifinals. Newington waxed Trinity Catholic (9-0), then got past Tri-Town (3-2). LH was dominant against both Masuk (6-1) and New Milford (6-0).

Senior Kyle Roberts, the SCC/SWC’s Division III player of the year, leads the Trojans with 28 goals and 35 assists. His fellow All-SCC first-teamer, junior Matt Pettit has 21 and 30.

Both Pettit and freshman Jack Roberts (13 G/28 A) had two goals against Masuk and one versus New Milford.

LH junior Aidan Weir, meanwhile, scored twice in both games, including the first two against New Milford. One of the goals was short-handed.

The Trojans’ defense is led by senior Ryan Niemiec and junior Michael O’Toole. They’ll look to contain a Newington offense fueled by Ethan Ranger (19 G/ 14 A), Matt Lavoie (12G / 17A) and Andrew Graham (12 G/ 15 A).


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