Panthers claim Little Pal senior girls crown
NAUGATUCK — The Panthers won the 2012 senior girls Little Pal basketball championship two games to none in a best of three series over the Shockers. Both games came down to the wire and were decided in dramatic fashion.
The second seed Panthers, 7-3, upended the fifth seed Shockers, 4-6, by a slim 26-24 margin in game one of the championship series. The Panthers claimed the crown winning a 30-29 overtime battle in game two.
The Panthers received a bye into the second round where they knocked off the Rockets to advance to the championship series. It was the third Little Pal championship in the last seven years for head coach Rick Pelliccia and assistant coach Steve Aronin.
The Panthers were led by a potent offense with Madison Jensen, Jackie Aronin, and Sarah Ciarcia leading the charge along with Elizabeth Trumbley, Emily Wingard, and Alexis Woods.
“We knew we had the potential when the season began,” Pelliccia said. “We struggled a bit and got off to a slow start. I think once we moved Jackie Aronin to the point and brought Madison Jensen down low it opened up our offense and we started to put it all together.”
The Shockers were playing in their third championship series in the last four years under head coach Robert Mezzo and assistant coach Jay Sorcinelli. After finishing the regular season at 4-6, the Shockers played their best basketball of the season in the playoffs.
The Shockers’ late-season run was fueled by experience, led by four-year players Nicole Boucher, Ally Mezzo, Megan Schebell, and Molly Veale along with first-year player Gina Wierzbicki and the only starter who will return next year Anna Petruny.
Facing the fourth seed Wildcats in the first game of the playoffs the Shockers were staring down the barrel of an eight-point deficit entering the fourth period. The Shockers went on to win in overtime and advanced to face the first seed Hornets.
The Hornets had not lost a game in three years coming into the season but that streak ended when the Shockers defeated them in the regular season. The Shockers went on to win the rematch in the playoffs to advance to the championship series.
“When I played in Little Pal it was predominately a boys league,” said Shockers coach Mezzo. “But girls sports have really progressed in Naugatuck and it was nice to see the turnout for the championship series. To see the stands filled with the boys cheering on the girls was really a great thing.”
Both teams appeared to be evenly matched and it would come down to the production of the B squads. The Panthers B squad — Julia Pelliccia, Jaimee Trumbley, Hailey Deitelbaum, Cameron Diaz, Michelle Ryan, Skylar Thompson, and Evelyn Diaz — gave the champions a deciding edge.
The Shockers B squad — Abrianna Hasipi, Meghan Messier, Alyssa Peterson, Ally Rusin, Cindy Stirk, Shivani Pahdi, Hannah Zaharek, and Swetha Nanduri — played an integral roll in the teams late season turnaround and put together an effort that sent both games down to the wire.
The Shockers were on the verge of sending this series to a third and deciding game. Jensen fouled out with three minutes left and the Panthers needed someone to step up.
The game went into overtime and Elizabeth Trumbley buried a game-tying shot to bring the Panthers back. Sarah Ciarcia scored the game-winning point from the foul line. The Panthers hung on for the one-point win to claim the title.