December 29, 2014 01:54PM
By Ken Lipshez
WALLINGFORD — The Lyman Hall girls made it apparent that they weren’t going to let the fog of a town rivalry distract them.
The outset was somewhat hazy, but the play of Krista Petersen cut through it decisively.
Petersen had a hand in the first six points and the seventh-seeded Trojans never looked back in racing past No. 23 Sheehan, 60-42, in a CIAC Class L second-round game Friday night before a standing-room-only crowd at the Lyman Hall gym.
The Trojans (19-4) advance to the quarterfinals where defending champion and second seed Farmington, a 64-45 winner over New Fairfield Friday, will be waiting on Thursday night.
“It’s down to eight teams and we haven’t been this far since we won the state championship (1985 and 1986),” Lyman Hall coach Tom Lipka said. “It’s an exciting time for us considering where we were two years ago (0-20). It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Petersen had 18 points — 16 in the first half — and contributed four assists and four steals. She shared team scoring honors with Nicole Mierzejewski, who also snared 11 rebounds.
The contest went nearly three minutes without a point when Petersen scored on a putback. The next time down, she swished a 3-pointer. Her ensuing steal led to a free-throw situation for Kim Petit.
“[Petersen] doesn’t get frustrated. She goes at you the whole time,” Lipka said. “She has that soccer mentality ... attack, attack, attack. In the state tournament games she’s done great, in the Amity game, which was huge. She just plays great in big games.”
Mierzejewski noted that conditions — rivalry, packed house, the one-and-your-done nature of the tournament — set some nerves ablaze at the start.
“We were all nervous all day. We didn’t take this for granted at all,” she said. “We started out slow, but we got into it after that.”
Sheehan (12-12) missed its first seven shots. The Titans, so reliant on their perimeter shooting, couldn’t get one to fall in the first quarter and left the floor trailing 12-4. They made just one 3-pointer all night.
“That’s such a big part of our game and, I’ve mentioned it before, their length really bothers us,” Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “It bothers us offensively and it bothers us defensively when we’re trying to trap. They just throw it right over the top of us. ... They’re a tough group for us to play against.”
Said Lipka: “They were a very good 3-point shooting team this year, but all three games we played them they couldn’t hit the three. Our defense was good at times, but at times they had wide-open looks but the threes still weren’t going down.”
The Trojans smelled blood and took complete advantage in the second stanza.
Petersen dropped in another trey for starters and followed up with a steal and end-to-end sprint for a bucket after Sheehan had closed it to 15-9. The hoop ignited a 12-2 run that propelled Lyman Hall to a 33-14 halftime lead.
With their threes catching iron, the Titans’ lone option was Joelle MarkAnthony in the low post. MarkAnthony scored a game-high 20 points and ripped down nine rebounds, but without the longballs falling, it wasn’t nearly enough to offset the Trojans’ balance.
“They call threes fool’s gold for a reason,” Busillo said.
Sheehan took the initiative early in the second half. MarkAnthony scored a pair of hoops and dished to Cassie Strickland for another to cut the lead to 13, but it would get no closer.
Mierzejewski confidently drained a 15-footer that essentially left no doubt about the outcome. She had a look of supreme confidence in her eye when she let fly.
“You get that confidence and it’s really an amazing thing,” she said.
MarkAnthony was the Trojans’ focal point as they prepared for the game, the third win over Sheehan this season.
“The most important thing was to [slow down] Joelle,” Mierzejewski said. “She’s the main threat in close. She still had a great game, but I thought we did a good job. If they got hot, we would have switched off.”
Taylor Mierzejewski, whose defense had a big part in hurrying the Sheehan shooters, had eight points and six rebounds. Petit had seven points and seven rebounds.
Nikki Kern, who courageously came back for the Titans after separating her shoulder in the tourney opener, scored five points off the bench.