The regular season has come and gone and that means itâ€™s playoff time for the New Britain area winter athletes and the seniors especially, are doing everything they can to make it count because in the postseason, theyâ€™ll never know when itâ€™s going to be there last game.
Goodwin Techâ€™s Francisco Santiago and Berlinâ€™s Alana Garofalo both played key roles on their respective teams throughout this season in efforts to make a state tournament run.
Santiago has been one of the Gladiators top offensive threats, averaging between 21 and 22 points per game and his hard work outside of practice has not gone unnoticed.
â€śHeâ€™s an extremely hard worker,â€ť Goodwin Tech head coach Reuben Charles said. â€śHe has truly improved every year. But one thing that I have really noticed in his game from freshman year to senior year is he truly understands the game.â€ť
A perfect example came last Wednesday during the Gladiatorsâ€™ CTC semifinals loss against Wilcox Tech. Santiago did all that he could, scoring 29 of the teamâ€™s 48 points.
With the league tournament over, Goodwin Tech has the Division IV state tournament where it will be fourth seed after finishing its regular season 17-3.
That record earned the Gladiators a first round bye. They will host the winner of No. 13 Valley Regional (13-7)/No. 20 Windham (10-10) Thursday at 7 p.m.
â€śThis season has been going really good for us,â€ť Santiago said. â€śIt has definitely been a lot better than the years before. I think thatâ€™s because weâ€™re all playing as a team and sharing the ball.â€ť
Of course, Santiago and his teammates have high expectations heading into the state tournament.
â€śOur final goal is to end high school with a state championship ring,â€ť Santiago said.
Off the court, Santiago has been looking at a handful of schools but with basketball in mind.
There have been a number of schools in consideration, including Newbury College, Western New England University, Keuka College and Drexel University. But as of late, Santiagoâ€™s top choice is Hunter College.
The season started out rocky for the young Berlin girls basketball team, but as the season came to a close the Redcoats won seven games straight including reaching the CCC Tournament semifinals.
â€śWe worked hard this entire year, and I am so proud of how far we have come,â€ť Garofalo said. â€śIâ€™ve never been this far in the CCC Tournament with Berlin. Weâ€™re always the underdogs. Iâ€™m so proud of these girls and what weâ€™ve created here.â€ť
During Berlinâ€™s run in the tournament, Garofalo took on the teamâ€™s toughest defensive assignments.
â€śAlana Garofalo had an outstanding run at the end of the season,â€ť Berlin head coach Shelia King said. â€śShe had big defensive and key offensive roles in beating Windsor and Simsbury during the CCC Tournament. Each night she took on the toughest of defensive assignments with great pride.â€ť
Unfortunately for the Redcoats, their season ended with a first-round loss in the Class M state tournament, ending their season with a 14-10 record.
Garofaloâ€™ senior season ended a little sooner than expected, but over the last four years, she learned a lot about not only the team, but overcoming adversity.
During her time at Berlin, Garofalo has overcome two ACL tears and became an â€śirreplaceable senior leader,â€ť King said.
â€śIâ€™ve created a lot of bonds with the younger kids,â€ť Garofalo said. â€śWe joke like Iâ€™m their mama bear. I love pushing them and Iâ€™m going to love leaving the basketball in their hands.â€ť
â€śShe will be tremendously missed next season by all of us,â€ť Kind added. â€śBut she left her footprint on our program demonstrating perseverance, toughness and dedication. She has been one of the fiercest competitors I have ever coached.â€ť
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org