Cromwell (Conn.) girls basketball team
set some lofty goals before the season, among them going unbeaten and winning the CIAC Class M title.
The Panthers are halfway to achieving both goals, but they aren't spending much time discussing their record.
"I wouldn't say that they talk about it," Cromwell coach Kelly Maher said. "They know they're undefeated. At our games, the fans talk about it more.
"They want to win a state title, Maher added. "Until they do that, you won't hear much from them. That's more important to them than going undefeated."
The Panthers are three games away from a perfect season and the state title that has eluded their program. They play host to Kolbe Cathedral (Bridgeport, Conn.) in Thursday's Class M quarterfinal round.See MaxPreps Connecticut girls basketball playoff brackets.
Cromwell (25-0) won the Shoreline Conference title. It also has a quality non-conference road win over defending Class L champion Bacon Academy (Colchester, Conn.), 53-50. Bacon is the top seed in Class L and has advanced to the semifinals.
Holy Cross (Waterbury, Conn.) was the last Connecticut girls basketball team to finish unbeaten, going 26-0 in 2007.
"They set their goals early on and they're taking care of them one game at a time," Maher said. "They're focusing on what we have to do to win games. I think that takes the pressure off of them a little bit."
Defense has been a key to Cromwell's success. It's allowed an average of 32.3 points, fourth-best in the state.
"We stress defense a lot," Maher said. "You will
hear the kids talk about that.
"I think our strength has really been getting out in transition, and that's because of our defense. If we play defense, we always play better on offense.
"If we get a stop and a rebound, we like to get out and run."
leads the Panthers in points (17.2), rebounds (8.4) and steals (2.2). She has received Division I offers.
Senior co-captain Lindsay Langenauer
(forward) has averaged 8.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and three blocks. Fellow co-captain Kelly Flanigan
(guard-forward) has averaged 10.3 points.
Senior guard-forward Alexa Riley
(nine points, 1.8 steals) and junior guard Emily Appleby
round out the starting lineup.
"We have two tall girls (Harrison and Langenauer, both six feet) and three good guards as well," Maher said. "We can go in and out. Teams really have to guard all five of us, and all five have been the leading scorer at least once."
Cromwell has also used experience to its advantage. The entire starting lineup played AAU ball with the Connecticut Cobras. Appleby, Flanigan, Harrison and Langenauer started last season (Riley was the sixth man).
"We were moved up (to Class M) last season because we went to the (2011) Class S final," Maher said. "We came on late in the year and won the Shoreline Conference championship against (eventual Class S champion) Coginchaug, which was a senior-heavy team. They were the favorite from the beginning. Winning that title gave us confidence heading into the states.
"We've been in some close games (this season), but nothing seems to get them rattled, which goes back to our experience. Last year, we could get a little rattled because of our inexperience. Having played together for two years at the varsity level has really helped."
The Panthers were beaten by eventual champion Hartford Weaver in last season's semifinals, 48-39.
"We were down early, probably a little bit in awe of them," Maher said, "then fought back and got it to two points with two minutes to go.
"That has motivated them all season."Ned
Griffen has covered high school, college and professional sports in the
Northeast since 1992. A 2003 New England Associated
Press News Executives award winner, he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org