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Simsbury tops New Milford to earn first trip to state championship game

The Simsbury High girls basketball team celebrates after Saturday night’s win over New Milford in the Class L semifinals in New Britain.

NEW BRITAIN, March 9, 2024 – The SImsbury High girls basketball keeps breaking barriers. Three years ago, they were the first team in program history to make the semifinals of the state tournament. A year ago, they won their first conference championship since 2000.

On Saturday night, Simsbury earned their first-ever trip to a state championship game with a 42-32 win over No. 3 New Milford at New Britain High School. The No. 2 seeded Trojans will face No. 1 seed Holy Cross (24-2) in the Class L championship game on either Saturday or Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Crusaders outlasted No. 12 seed Farmington, 69-63, in the game that preceded the Simsbury contest on the New Britain floor.

As usual, the Trojans relied on a suffocating defense that held the Green Wave scoreless over the final 4:14 of the second quarter and the first 3:37 of the third quarter.

In that span, Simsbury (22-4) turned a one-point deficit into a 13-point lead with a 14-0 run. Olivia Jarvis had six of her 13 points in the run while Amanda Gallagher had five points of her game-high 24 points in the surge.

“We came out and knew what we had to do and stuck with our plan, like usual and got it done,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis drew the assignment of slowing down New Milford’s Ileanna Feliz, a strong, 6-foot-1 senior who is the school’s leading scorer. The Trojans held her to just nine points and just one field goal in the second half.

“She is probably the most physical player I have played against,” Jarvis said. “She knows how to post up very well. It was tough but the help defense was way off helping because we did not want to her to be able to turn and go up with (the ball). It was a whole team effort, not just me.”

Simsbury’s Oliva Jarvis goes to the basket in Saturday night’s Class L semifinal against New Milford.

Simsbury coach Sam Zullo was thrilled with the win and the adjustments that his players made on the floor.

“What I was most proud of what not our defense for the whole game but how we figured them out in the second half,” he said. “The kids did that on their own. That’s what we talk about every day. It is your job to figure out every quarter what they are doing and not to let them do that any more.”

New Milford (21-5) had a 20-19 lead with 4:14 left in the second quarter after Megan Borhman hit her second three-point shot of the game to cap off a 6-0 run for the Green Wave.

But New Milford didn’t score for the remainder of the quote while Jarvis sank a basket in the lane over two Green Wave defenders with 3:37 left and hit a jumper in the lane with 2:15 to go. Gallagher drove the basket and laid it in off the glass just before time expired to give Simsbury a 25-20 lead at the break.

Simsbury scored the first eight points of the third quarter with Amanda Gallagher and Alexa Gallagher sinking three-point shots and Jarvis scoring in the lane off another nice assist from a teammate to give Simsbury a 33-20 lead.

Amanda Gallagher didn’t sink another field goal in the game but she was 8-of-10 from the free throw line.

“My teammates helped me,” she said. “They look for their own shots, which good and it helps get me open. I stayed aggressive the whole time and looked for my shot.”

Amanda Gallagher (32), who had a game-high 24 points, drives to the basket in Saturday night’s Class L semifinal against New Milford.

Amanda Gallagher and Jarvis had the bulk of the points for Simsbury but their teammate helped in more subtle ways. The Trojans fired the ball around the perimeter looking for the open shots. In many cases, it would end with Amanda Gallagher or Jarvis but their teammates crisply passed the ball and didn’t commit many turnovers, enabling Simsbury to find the open shooter.

New Milford cut the lead to seven, 36-29, when Jade Wallace (nine points) hit a jumper in the lane with 6:21 remaining. It was as close as the Green Wave would get. They didn’t hit another field goal in the game.

Simsbury had a 14-9 lead after one quarter when Amanda Gallagher drove to the basket and sank a basket off the glass at the buzzer to end the quarter.

New Milford tied the game when Bohrman, who had a team-high 12 points, hit a two-point shot from the corner and then hit a three-point shot about 40 seconds later.

Amanda Gallagher hit a three-point shot to give Simsbury a 17-14 lead and the Trojans extended the lead to 19-14 when Addison Girard stole the ball and drove in for a layup.

Simsbury, which has had girls basketball teams since the 1920s, will play for their first state championship next weekend.  The CIAC didn’t begin hosting state tournaments for girls basketball until 1974.

“It’s amazing,” Amanda Gallagher said. “There is really no way to describe it. In our locker room, everyone was going crazy. It’s a great feeling.”

“It is new. It is fresh. It is exciting. I am so excited,” Jarvis said.

Simsbury 42, New Milford 32
At New Britain
New Milford (32)
Sophie Barrett 0-0-0, Megan Borhman 3-4-12, Jaelah Howard 0-0-0, Jade Wallace 3-3-9, Chenna McNamara 1-0-2. Ileana Feliz 3-3-9. Totals 10 10-17 32
Simsbury (42) Charlotte Reitz 0-0-0, Olivia Jarvis 6-1-13, Melinda Vanino 0-0-0, Charlotte Diviney 1-0-2, Addison Girard 1-0-2, Amanda Gallagher 5-10-24, Alexa Gallagher 1-0-3. Totals 14 11-16 42
New Milford (21-5)             9  11    4  8  — 32
Simsbury (22-4)                14  11  11  6  — 42
Three-point goals: Alexa Gallagher (S), Amanda Gallagher (S) 2, Borhman (NM) 2

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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