MERIDEN, March 14, 2022 – The Simsbury High girls basketball team was playing in the semifinals of a CIAC tournament game for the first time in team history against Notre Dame-Fairfield, a squad that was tied for the No. 1 ranking in the latest GameTimeCT top 10 sportswriters poll.
The Trojans were not fazed. They just kept playing. Hard.
They hit the glass, pulling down plenty of defensive rebounds. They played man-to-man defense for the majority of the game.
Unfortunately, Simsbury missed several open shots and against a good team like Notre Dame-Fairfield, it will cost you. The Lancers got 12 points from Neer Mayo and 10 from Taylor Gibbes to advance to the Class L finals with a 39-28 victory over Simsbury Monday night at Maloney High.
Notre Dame-Fairfield (22-3) will face CCC North champion Newington (22-1) at the Mohegan Sun Arena this weekend.
Sophomore Olivia Jarvis had a team-high 13 points for Simsbury (21-4) while Lauren Sabia had nine points, despite being covered constantly and many double teams. Sometimes, Sabia had three Notre Dame players around her.
“Unfortunately, we just missed a lot of good shots,” Simsbury coach Sam Zullo said. “I thought we got better shots than they did in the first half and we missed a lot of them.”
Zullo compared the hard-nosed style of the Lancers to East Hartford, who thumped Simsbury in the CCC Tournament. “We were not ready for that type of competitiveness (against East Hartford) but today we were,” he said.
Notre Dame-Fairfield had to work for their points. There were few easy baskets in this game.
“We struggled,” Notre Dame-Fairfield coach Maria Conlon said. “They made it really hard for us in different points of the game but we had some people step up. We told the girls this week that we will see some adversity and the team that can fight back will be the ones to come out on top.”
Sabia hit an off-balance three-pointer at the end of the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7. It was one of Simsbury’s tougher shots of the quarter and it went through the net.
Notre Dame-Fairfield scored the first six points of the second quarter to take a 13-7 lead with Mayo scoring on a nice play with 3:58 remaining in the first half. Jarvis scored inside off a nice feed from Sabia to cut the lead to four but Mayo completed a three-point play with 2:41 left to boost the lead to seven, 16-9. Sabia drove to the basket with 1:52 left to cut the lead to five at the half, 16-11.
Early in the third quarter, Sabia had a three-point shot drop through the rim and spin out. Notre Dame’s Taylor Gibbs drained a three-point shot to extend the lead to 19-11. Three minutes later, Kayla Tilus drove the baseline and scored for a 21-11 advantage.
On four occasions, Simsbury cut the lead to seven but couldn’t get any closer. Early in the fourth quarter, another three-point shot from Sabia that could have cut the lead to four spun out of the basket.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame, the No. 3 seed in Class L, hit 15-of-21 free throws to maintain their lead.
Zullo was pleased with the defensive effort. “I thought we were committed all the way through the game,” he said. “They got some back door baskets but they were really nice plays.
Simsbury, seeded No. 2 in Class L, won 10 of their last 12 games.
“Overall, I am really proud of our effort all the way around and I just wish a few more shots went in and we were in it until the end,” Zullo said. “But I love my team and am very proud of them.”
It is Notre Dame-Fairfield’s first trip to the Class L championship game since 1989. The Lancers last played for a state title in 2016 when they lost to Cromwell in the Class M final.
Notre Dame-Fairfield 39, Simsbury 28
At Meriden (Maloney)
Notre Dame-Fairfield (39) Molly McLaughlin 2 2-5 6, Neer Mayo 3 6-6 12, Paige Fourtin 0 1-2 1, Taylor Gibbs 3 2-4 10, Kayla Tilus 2-0-4, Sarah Macary 1 4-4 6, Rowan Houston 0-0-0. Totals 11 15-21 39
Simsbury (28) Lauren Sabia 4-0-9, Katie Perlitz 0-0-0, Olivia Jarvis 3 7-7 13, Sarah Perlitz 0-0-0, Alex Peterson 0-0-0, Faye Kaplinski 3-0-6, Amanda Gallagher 0-0-0. Totals 10-7-7 28
Notre Dame-Fairfield (22-3) 7 11 9 14 — 39
Simsbury (21-4) 7 4 7 10 — 28
Three-point goals: Sabia (S), Gibbs (ND) 2