Class L Title Belongs To Sachems

By Danny Atkinson

UNCASVILLE – After a few seasons of heartbreaking state tournament losses, RHAM-Hebron  finally climbed to the top of the girls basketball world, defeating Farmington  58-35 to win the CIAC Class L state championship, Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The title is the first in school history for RHAM which came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed and finished with a 25-1 overall record. Farmington which lost to RHAM during the regular season was the No. 3 seed and finished 21-5 overall.

RHAM had been the best team in Class L throughout the season and from the opening tip Sunday the Sachems showed they were up to the challenge of playing on the biggest of stages with the brightest of lights. Defense was the hallmark of RHAM’s success throughout the season and the title game was no different.

After taking a 29-18 lead into halftime, RHAM imposed its will on Farmington at both ends of the court in the third quarter. RHAM outscored Farmington 22-2 in the third on the way to a 51-20 advantage.

“It’s such an awesome feeling to win,” senior guard Gretchen Kron said. “We all feel so accomplished. We’ve (the seniors) been together so long and to finally end it with a state championship, there’s never been a better feeling.”

RHAM coach Keith Moyer said his team was ready for the challenge from the start of the game.

“It’s huge for this program to get that first championship win, and I am very proud that we were able to get it for our seniors,” RHAM head coach Keith Moyer said. “They’re a great group of girls, and they have done so much for the team and program and represented the school proudly. These girls with the volleyball, and the soccer, they know how to play, they don’t rattle, they’re real winners. All the girls (on the team), they’re just a great group of kids to work with and I love them all.”

Junior guard Jaclyn Santella was the Sachems top threat on offense, leading them with 20 points including five three-pointers in the first half.  Kron had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, and senior guard Lia Baroncini had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists. RHAM had 16 assists, went 9-25 from three and scored 14 fast break points.

Defensively RHAM frustrated Farmington all afternoon. The Sachems had 14 steals led by senior center Anna Barry (four), and forced 22 turnovers. Farmington was held to just 28.9% shooting (11-38) and RHAM had 33 points off turnovers.

Farmington center Izzy Lipinski led the Indians with 10 points including a put-back with 6:40 remaining in the third quarter in to cut the deficit to 29-20. But that was all of the offense the Indians could muster in the quarter as the Sachems ran off 22 straight points to take control of the game for good.

RHAM’s  defense did an outstanding job of pressuring and trapping ball handlers and guarding the passing lanes. When Farmington did finally manage to get the ball inside, the RHAM front court consistently smothered players and forced low percentage shots.

“I knew something was up at halftime. I told them to sit down and relax, and they wouldn’t sit down,” Moyer said when asked about RHAM’s performance in the third. “They just wanted to get back out here and go. They wanted to play hard. Our theme for the game was be aggressive and attack. Attack on defense. Attack on offense. That’s what we did. We gave up some easy ones early on our press. We had to take our press off. Our half-court trap worked and then we went back to man-to-man. The girls love to play man-to-man defense. We got Farmington back on their heels a little bit, and then we could run the fast break. They got hesitant because of it, and we were able to pick the ball. When we get on the break, we run pretty good.”

RHAM’s definitive defensive sequence came early in the third when the Sachems scored 13 straight points off turnovers.

Lia  Baroncini got things started with two consecutive three-pointers. Kron followed with another three-pointer and a couple of steals and a block by Baroncini helped set up two more baskets by Anna Barry (6 points) and Santella.

“We knew we had to come out strong in the third and they would play as hard as possible, so we brought the intensity up and went on a run from the beginning that really secured our place,” Kron said.

While the Indians made foul shots at the beginning of the fourth, they did not hit a field goal until a Lipinski layup with roughly 5:10 remaining. Their offense was held without a field goal for nearly 9:30.

Sanatella said the Sachems were just riding the momentum that continued to build in the third quarter.

“We came into the third like it was 0-0. We knew they would try to make a run and are a great team,” Santella said. “Everything was going right for us. We made all our shots, played great defense and got out in transition.”

Santella and Kron were huge offensively for RHAM in the first half, combining for 23 of its 29 points against the Farmington zone.

Moyer discussed his team’s approach on offense and performance from the perimeter.

“We put the ball in the hole (from three). The Farmington zone was pretty tough and refused to come out. We tried to go inside, but it didn’t work and we had to go back out to the perimeter.”

Santella said consistent ball movement was the key for RHAM as it found opportunities against the Farmington zone in the first half.

“We used a lot of ball movement on offense and the perimeter. We hadn’t really run a lot of those plays, but everything was falling and Lia, Gretchen and I were hitting threes,” Santella said. “I just kept shooting and everything was going in. It was just crazy.”

While praising his defense, Moyer singled out Kron for her defense on Lipinski who had been Farmington’s top performer all season.  Lipinski finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but also shot just 4-9 and committed six turnovers. No other Indian had more than six points. Kron discussed her approach against Lipinski.

“We knew we had to step up defensively and especially take Izzy out of the game. Coming in, I knew I had to shut her down immediately and not allow her to get rebounds or attack in any way.”

Moyer also credited his player’s experience in big games with helping them be prepared for the title game.  Multiple RHAM seniors have won or participated in championship games in other sports in recent years.  Barry and Shea won two titles in volleyball, and Kron competed in  Class L soccer final this season.

“We thought at the beginning of the year we could win a state championship, we’ve been trying for three years. To actually have it come to light that we won is crazy,” Santella said.

See more great action photos here: https://thesportsdept.smugmug.com/RHAM-GIrls-Basketball-Class-L-State-Champions-2018/

 

RHAM celebrates its first ever girls basketball state championship after defeating Farmington 58-35 in the Class L title game, Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena

See more great action photos here: https://thesportsdept.smugmug.com/RHAM-GIrls-Basketball-Class-L-State-Champions-2018/

 

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