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Class MM girls basketball semifinals: Northwest Catholic, Sheehan win, will play for state title

PLAINVILLE – Late last month, Northwest Catholic sophomore Abigail Casper left the CCC girls basketball championship game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, got it wrapped and tried to return to the court to play but couldn’t.

Casper had a sprained ankle; she missed Northwest’s first state tournament game, a win over Weston, but was back for a second-round win over Ledyard and a quarterfinal victory over Rocky Hill.

Saturday night at Plainville High, Casper scored 24 points as Northwest Catholic, last year’s Class S champion, beat North Haven 59-43 in the Class MM semifinal game.

Second-seeded Northwest (23-5) will face No. 5 seed Sheehan, a 64-43 winner over Berlin in the second semifinal game, in the Class MM championship game at Mohegan Sun either March 16 or 17 at a time to be determined.

“I’m excited to get back there with almost the same team again,” Casper said. “(The ankle) feels good now. I was a little concerned (when it happened) but I knew the day after I was going to be able to come back. I wanted to get back as soon as possible but I sat out the first game.”

Casper had 25 points in the quarterfinal win over Rocky Hill.

“Thankfully, it was something she was able to work through,” Northwest Catholic coach Alison Connors said. “She’s a really tough kid.”

Northwest jumped out to a 19-6 lead in the first quarter but North Haven rallied in the second and trailed 30-22 at halftime. The Lions closed the third quarter with a 12-0 run to take a 50-30 lead heading into the fourth.

Senior Lily Pare and sophomore Maeve Staunton each had 10 points for Northwest.

“We’re excited to go back, very excited,” Connors said. “They set this goal at the beginning of the season. Up two classes, we knew things were going to be harder this year but we kept taking each challenge as they came.

“We’re still playing, that’s what we want.”

Sheehan 64, Berlin 43: Megan Wresien and Liv Cassesse each scored 19 points and Sheehan (21-6) defeated No. 9 Berlin in the Class MM semifinal game Saturday night at Plainville High School.

“When I came to Sheehan, this is where I wanted to be, I wanted to go to Mohegan,” said Cassesse, a senior guard. “And now I’m here and I’m extremely excited. It’s unreal, actually.”

The last time Sheehan went to the state final was 2019. The Titans lost to Cromwell that year in the championship game.

Last year, Sheehan lost in the Class MM quarterfinals to eventual champion New London.

“I’m really happy,” Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “It’s joy. It’s relief. I wanted it for these kids. I was lucky enough to experience it in 2019. I’m glad they get to experience it. We’re not a program that’s going to go there every year. We needed special kids and I have special kids.”

Led by Emma Ellison’s 22 points, Berlin hung around for the first half, trailing only 29-25 at halftime. Sheehan made a few adjustments and led by 10 at the end of the third and then broke open the game in the fourth.

“We saw something in the second quarter, the last offensive possession, we thought, ‘Maybe if we could spread them out a little bit we could get some drives to the basket,'” Busillo said. “We got a lot of drives to the basket.”

At the beginning of the year, Busillo made a list of Class MM teams he thought would be contenders.

“Berlin was one of them,” he said. “Northwest Catholic was another. We were another, we were on the list.

“(Berlin’s) really good. They deserve a lot of credit. But my kids were able to figure it out. That’s what we’ve said all year. We’ll figure it out.”