WINDSOR LOCKS, Feb. 21 – The Avon High girls basketball team has won too many games over the years for their opponents in the NCCC to feel sorry for them.
But the Falcons were in a challenging position Thursday night in the NCCC Tournament championship game against Ellington playing without the two players that earned All-NCCC honors.
Freshman Abby Laszewski was on the bench, as she has been for the entire league tournament, with a suspected broken bone in her foot. Joining her on the bench for the championship game was junior point guard Anna Schrecengost, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the semifinal win over East Windsor two days earlier.
The Falcons didn’t want any pity. They wanted a championship – and they very nearly grabbed it.
With a hustling brand of defense, the Falcons built leads as high as nine points and led by three with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter but they couldn’t close it out.
Ellington’s Jessica Malone hit a huge three-point shot with 58 seconds left in the game to erase a three-point lead and leading scorer Karlee Alves hit three foul shots to life the Purple Knights to a 59-56 win over Avon Thursday night.
Sophomore guard Michaela Marcus scored a career-high 27 points for the Falcons, nine points that her previous best game against Somers on Feb. 1. Shannon Curry had 11 points.
The win gives Ellington (17-6) their third straight NCCC Tournament championship. Avon (20-3) shared the regular season title with Bolton as both went 15-1. It was the fourth league title in six years for the Falcons.
The loss of Laszewski and Schrecengost was huge. Laszewski averaged 11.0 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. In Avon’s 66-62 overtime win over Ellington on February 5, Laszewski scored 22 points, blocked eight shots and pulled down 18 rebounds.
Schrecengost was averaging a team-leading 14.0 points and 5.4 rebounds a game along with team-leading 113 assists and 53 steals.
And still, the Falcons came close to winning the tournament championship.
“People were in new roles tonight,” Avon High coach Frank Waters said. “Michaela had never run the show before. Caroline (Schaefer) and Lauren (Miller) were not starters before tonight. Kaylee Sherman and Alex Benedict came off the bench to play some key minutes and both are freshmen.
“Those kids did a wonderful job tonight,” Waters said.
Marcus gave Avon a nine-point lead early in the third quarter after back-to-back drives to the basket, 33-24. Miller pulled down 10 rebounds before heading to the bench early in the third quarter with four fouls.
The Falcons played tough defense and blocked shots. In one third quarter stretch, Madison Mains had a block and Colleen Norton had two.
Avon extended its lead to six, 39-33 with 2:13 left in the third quarter after Norton ripped down a rebound and passed it to Mains, who was open under the basket.
At the defensive end, Maines and Norton blocked shots but Ellington’s Brittany Lemire drained a three-point shot and Cassie Holmes hit two foul shots to cut the Avon lead to one, 39-38.
From that point, it was nip and tuck the rest of the way.
“All of the kids picked up their game,” Ellington coach Lauren Lovetere said. “We played some defenses we hadn’t used in games before and it took us a while to get into the momentum of the game.”
Trailing by two, Curry took a nice pass from Mains in the low post to tie the game at 53-53 with 2:21 left. After Norton blocked a Ellington shot at the other end, Marcus drove the length of the floor and scored on a layup with 1:51 remaining. Fouled on the play, she added a free throw for a 56-53 edge.
Malone’s big three-point shot tied the game at 56-56 with 58 seconds left. After a Falcon turnover, Alves hit two free throws with 41 seconds left and a 58-56 lead.
Ellington pressure forced a turnover on Avon’s next possession. After the Knights missed two free throws, Avon couldn’t control the rebound, giving the ball back to Ellington.
Alves, who was named the outstanding player in the tournament, added another free throw with 24 seconds left for a 59-56 lead.
Marcus and Schrecengost were named to the All-Tournament team along with Alves and Malone from Ellington, Melissa Wabble from East Windsor and Jamie Grzych from Bolton.
Ellington 59, Avon 56
At Windsor Locks
Ellington (59) Jessica Malone 2 4-6 9, Devonney Waters 2-0-4, Cassie Holmes 0 4-6 4, Kim MeLou 0 4-6 4, Karlee Alves 9 6-10 24, Brittany Lemire 5 3-3 14, Madison Lemire 0-0-0, Megan Milliken 0-0-0. Totals 18 21-31 59
Avon (56) Michaela Marcus 7 12-16 27, Caroline Schaefer 0 2-4 2, Lauren Miller 1 2-2 4, Colleen Norton 1 0-2 2, Shannon Curry 3 5-8 11, Alex Benedict 1-0-2, Julia Schrecengost 0-0-0, Madison Mains 2-0-4, Kaylee Sherman 1 2-4 4. Totals 16 28-36 56
Three-point goals: Marcus (A), Malone (E), B. Lemire (E)
Ellington (17-6) 6 16 16 21 – 59
Avon (20-3) 12 17 11 16 – 56
Recent NCCC Tournament champions
2012: Ellington 48, Suffield 45
2011: Ellington 60, East Granby 45
2010: Avon 54, Ellington 47
2009: Avon 33, Tolland 21
2008: Avon 34, Tolland 28
2007: Avon 42, Windsor Locks 36
2006: Avon 60, Tolland 26
2005: Suffield 43, Avon 39
2004: Avon 42, Ellington 29
2003: Avon 68, Ellington 35