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Sydney Segalla, a senior, went to the line to try to protect the 39-32 lead against Windsor Locks on Friday, March 4. Photo by Hunter O. Lyle

HVRHS girls advance in state tournament

FALLS VILLAGE — In a grit-and-grind battle, the Housatonic Valley Regional High School girls basketball team squeezed out a 39-32 win over Windsor Locks in the second round of the CIAC state tournament

The Mountaineers, who are the No. 6 seed in the Class S bracket, entered the tournament with a blowout 41-15 win against the No. 26 seed Vinal Technical High School on Tuesday, March 1. With the win against Vinal Tech came an opportunity to defend their home court again three days later, this time against a more familiar challenger: No. 11 Windsor Locks High School.

“Going into Vinal Tech, it wasn’t as competitive of a game, so I thought we were getting into bad habits which I was really worried about,” said Sydney Segalla, a senior. “We knew [Windsor Locks] had beaten Thomaston and Shepaug, who we had lost to twice now. I think it’s always good to have a little nerve coming into a game.”

In front of a deafening home crowd, the Mountaineers looked to set the tone early with an aggressive full-court-press that saw three steals within the first minutes of the game. However, while their defense stunted the Spartans’ drives, neither team could string together successful possessions. By the end of the first quarter the Mountaineers had a slender 8-7 lead.

In the second quarter, the Mountaineers started to pull away. Tenacious rebounding, especially from seniors Segalla and Tori Dodge on the offensive glass, resulted in multiple baskets deep in the paint while their scrappy defense took several possessions away from the Spartans. At halftime, the Mountaineers led 19-13.

“I told them that defense and getting offensive rebounds tonight would be the key to success,” said head coach Steve Dodge. “They did a great job on defense.”

The game slowed down for the Mountaineers in the second half. While they were still grabbing rebound after rebound, the Mountaineers failed to score for minutes at a time, allowing Windsor Locks to open the quarter with a 5-to-2 scoring run and cut the deficit to just three points going into the final quarter.

Backed into a corner, the Mountaineers focused on their defensive efforts to stop the Spartans. While they struggled throughout the fourth quarter to finish easy opportunities, their relentless offensive rebounding, coupled with Segalla’s ironclad defense in the paint, kept the Mountaineers ahead.

The three-point lead coming into the fourth quarter stretched to nine with just over a minute left. A pair of clutch free throws from freshman Tessa Dekker forced the Spartans to start intentionally fouling. After a few more trips to the freethrow line, the Mountaineers secured the 39-32 win.

Next the Mountaineers will travel to No. 3 Coventry High School on Tuesday, March 8.

“I think the key to success going into the playoffs is keeping that same energy and same mentality of ‘we can win’ and ‘we can beat bigger schools’,” said Segalla, who finished with a team-high 17 points. “If we focus I think we can beat anyone.”

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