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Fantastic sophomores help NW Catholic win second straight state title

Northwest Catholic’s Abby Casper (30) draws a crowd as she goes to the basket in Saturday’s Class MM championship game. Casper had a game-high 19 points as the Lions won their second straight state title. (Photo courtesy Jason Armistead)

UNCASVILLE, Conn., March 16, 2024 – Shots were not falling for either team in Saturday’s Class MM championship game between No. 2 Northwest Catholic and No. 5 Sheehan-Wallingford at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The two teams combined to sink just 12 field goals in the first half and score just a total of 32 points with Sheehan holding a four-point lead.

Northwest Catholic (25-2) put the ball in the hands of their fantastic sophomores Abby Casper and Maeve Staunton. The two players scored 12 points each in the second half to help lift the Lions to their second consecutive state championship with a 43-37 victory over Sheehan.

Casper and Staunton scored the final nine points for Northwest Catholic as the Lions added a Class MM title to the Class S championship they won a year ago.

“If the ball falls into one of their two hands, we know we are in good hands,” NW Catholic coach Alison Connors said of Casper and Staunton. “They open up the game for each other. When is able is able to finish (inside), it opens up the three-point (shot) for Maeve so Maeve can do what Maeve wants to do.”

Staunton, who is from Burlington, was named the game’s most outstanding player with 16 points, two assists and three steals. Casper finished with a game-high 19 points, including 3-of-4 from three-point range.

Northwest Catholic held Sheehan (21-7) to just 23.5 percent shooting from the floor, including 20 percent from three-point range.

But the Titans had the lead with 3:30 left in the game when Liv Cassesse hit her second 3-point shot of the contest, 34-33.

Northwest Catholic regained the lead, 35-34, when Casper converted on a turnaround jumper in the lane with 3:02 remaining. After the Titans turned the ball over a traveling call, Staunton hit a three-point shot with 2:31 left to extend the lead to four, 38-34.

“Maeve is an unbelievable athlete,” Connors said. “She lives for these moments. She really lives for these moments.”

Sophomore guard Maeve Staunton (Burlington) was named the game’s outstanding player. She had 16 points as the Lions beat Sheehan for the Class MM championship. (Photo courtesy Jason Armistead)

Casper hit a free throw with 1:22 left to push the lead to five, 39-34 but pesky Sheehan wouldn’t go away with Cassesse hitting another three-point shot with 1:04 left to trim the Lion lead to two, 39-37.

Casper hit a jumper in the lane with 29.9 seconds left and was fouled. She added a free throw to extend the lead to 42-37. Rushin hit an additional free throw with 15.1 seconds left.

Cassesse led 12 points for Sheehan with Jenna Wresien added 10 points.

Neither team shot the ball well in the first half with Sheehan scoring 18 points on 7-of-30 shooting while Northwest Catholic scored 14 on 5-of-23 shooting. The two teams were 5 of 29 from three-point range.

“We knew it would be a battle,” Connors said. “Sheehan is a very well-coached team and they are very strong at the defensive end. We told them, it’s one possession at a time. There are no miracle plays.”

Staunton had faith in her team’s defensive abilities.

“We knew our defense would be right there,” she said. “We have one of the best defensive teams in the state. We had to make a presence in the paint before we could begin kicking the ball out and shooting.”

Staunton had five points in a 10-2 run to help Northwest Catholic take a 26-21 lead with 1:42 remaining in the third quarter. Rushin had a basket in the lane while Casper drained a three-point shot.

Avon’s Susanna Schaub had two points and pulled down three rebounds for Northwest Catholic while teammate Lily Pare, also from Avon, pulled down two rebounds and had two steals in the victory.

It was the fifth state championship in program history for the Lions but the first time they had won back-to-back titles.

Northwest Catholic 43, Sheehan 37
At Uncasville
Sheehan (37) Jenna Wresien 4-0-10, Liv Cassesse 3-3-12, Susan Hotaling 1-1-3, Ella Dorsey 1-0-02, Megan Wresien 2-2-7, Bella Perno 1-0-3, Reilly Hunter 0-0-0, Camryn Jambor 0-0-0. Totals 12-6-37
NW Catholic (43) Maeve Rushin 2-1-6, Maeve Staunton 7-1-16, Lily Pare 0-0-0. Susanna Schaub 1-0-2, Abigail Casper 6-4-19, Zoey Canning 0-0-0, Lilyan Johnson 0-0-0. Totals 16-6-43
Sheehan (21-7)              7  11  11   8 – 37
NW Catholic (25-2)      5    9  15  14  — 43
Three-point goals: J. Wresein (S) 2, Cassesse (S) 3, M. Wresien (S), Perno (S), Rushin (NW), Staunton (NW), Casper (NW) 3

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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