By MICHAEL LETENDRE
For the first time possibly ever, all three scholastic girls basketball squads in the Mum City will be competing in the same state tournament bracket.
And, perhaps down the road at a local casino, two of those Bristol squads could be battling it out for a state crown if all the pieces fall into place.
But until then, it’s a long road to Mohegan Sun and here is how the CIAC bracket pans out for Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, and St. Paul Catholic basketball programs in Class L: (all first round state tournament contests were played on March 3).
The Rams ended the year at 6-14 and grabbed the 27th seed in the Class L fray.
The first round opponent was No. 6 Sacred Heart Academy of Hamden.
The Sharks had a very good season, going 17-3 overall and only dropped games to Hamden, North Haven, and Hillhouse by a combined 18 points.
Sacred Heart won its first eight games this year and then ended the regular season going 9-1.
On the other hand, the Rams won three straight contests after dropping its first two.
Central ended the year winning two of five games and rejoined the state tournament ranks for the first time since 2015, which was a playoff game in Stamford (78-20) where the Rams’ opponent purposely ran up the score.
Sophia Torreso, Central’s exciting freshman, averaged a team-high 11.5 points-per-game this season, which included 15 three-pointers.
Janessa Bartell successfully returned from a knee injury the previous year and posted 8.4 points-per-game and displayed a very physical game on both sides of the ball while Ella Watson added 5.6 points an outing for the Rams.
The victor moved on to second round action against either No. 11 Pomperaug (14-6) or No. 22 New Milford (8-12) on March 6.
The Lancers were 16-4 in regular season play and off a 3-4 start, the Kingstreeters won 14 straight games before falling to East Catholic in CCC Tournament play.
Eastern’s CCC South All-Conference performers of Jordan Ouellette (17.3 points-per-game), Avery Arbuckle (7.8), and Ciara Collins (15.8) – along with Cali Doyon and Sage Scarritt (5.7) – make an imposing starting five than can hang with just about every team in Class L play.
Taigan Parent and Alyssa Kehler will also see action during the postseason off Eastern’s bench.
Ouellette entered the state tournament mix needing just 29 points for 1,000.
The CCC South, Patriot division champs started first round play against Naugatuck Valley League challenger, No. 24 Waterbury Career Academy in a contest played from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol.
In the fill the bracket concept, the Spartans ramped up a 7-13 ledger – winning just one of their final five games which included a 59-9 victory against Wilby.
The victor of the tilt moves on to face either No. 8 Windsor (16-4) or No. 25 Crosby (7-13).
The showdown against the Warriors, a CCC competitor, would take place in Windsor.
St. Paul Catholic
The Falcons rolled up an 18-2 regular season and went 20-3 overall at the conclusion of NVL tournament play.
The squad of five seniors strong is highlighted by stars Janessa Gonzalez and Jade Udoh.
Along with tri-captain Olivia Heslin, St. Paul Catholic seized the No. 2 seed in all of Class L and earned a date with No. 31 RHAM.
The Sachems helped to fill the bracket, winning just three games this year against Tolland (twice) and Enfield.
Overall, RHAM was 3-17 and faced a huge uphill climb from the Rev. Brian Monnerat Gymnasium in Bristol.
The Falcons will be home for a bit if the team keeps winning and would see their first road game in the semifinal round at a neutral site.
Down the road, a possible encounter with No. 7 Wethersfield or No. 10 Naugatuck could be in the works during quarterfinal action.
And it’s conceivable that St. Paul Catholic and Bristol Eastern could square off in one of the final games of the season in the championship round.