PLAINVILLE - The mood in the Berlin girls basketball teamâ€™s locker room was one of devastation on Monday night.
The Redcoats had just dropped a close 62-59 loss to Sheehan, ending their run at a state title in the Class M semifinals, but beneath Berlinâ€™s sadness was an underlying sense of hope and motivation for the future.
While three seniors took off their Redcoats jerseys for the last time, including starter Angela Perrelli, the rest of the group in the locker room will be back next year, and plan to be back in the semifinals. Only this time, they expect to be wiping away tears of joy after a win rather than fighting tears of sadness after an excruciating defeat.
â€śWe already want it so badly,â€ť junior captain Lyzi Litwinko said. â€śWe were just talking about that in the locker room. We really want it next year. I feel like coming this far and having to suffer through a loss like this, especially being this close, it definitely gives us something to work for.â€ť
Litwinko, Berlinâ€™s most prolific scorer and ball handler, will be back as a seasoned senior to lead the Redcoats, as will returning starters Carly Grega, Ashley Wenzel and Wynter Yovan, who will all be juniors. The teamâ€™s primary bench scorers in Callie Gendron and Arianna Hender will also return armed with an extra year of experience that included a deep state tournament run.
â€śThat leaves a good taste in our mouths,â€ť head coach Sheila King said. â€śWe have a young team, and theyâ€™re almost all coming back. Theyâ€™ll be better for this and push forward next year.â€ť
Despite the hopeful outlook for the future, Perrelli still represents a significant void. The departing senior poured in 15 points in Monday nightâ€™s loss, including all three of the teamâ€™s 3-pointers, guiding the offense through stretches where Litwinko was benched with foul trouble. Her performance represented her consistent value to the Redcoats this season, which stretched beyond the hardwood.
â€śThereâ€™s a lot to deal with in that locker room right now,â€ť King said after Mondayâ€™s loss. â€śWe have three seniors (Perrelli, Ani Lapointe and Zenae Lewis) leaving that have given us so much, and Angela, what sheâ€™s had to endure the last four years, to be here at a state semifinal is outstanding. They left the program better than they found it.â€ť
The seniors leave the program with an established group of young talent who will begin next season one year wiser than when they walked out of Plainville High School on Monday night. Despite coming up painfully short, King and the Redcoats finished their season with a sense of pride in how fast the team came together and secured three state tournament wins, which King credits to the guidance from her graduating seniors.
â€śThey were able to do that through exceptional leadership from people like Angela, but theyâ€™re also an extremely talented group,â€ť King said of her returning core. â€śI knew weâ€™d have a good season, but I didnâ€™t know it would be this great of a season. We have an awful lot to be proud of.â€ť
As the sting of Monday nightâ€™s loss slowly wore off, the rest of Berlinâ€™s group began to feel a similar sense of accomplishment, realizing they had been ahead of schedule in their growth, which makes the outlook for next year even more promising.
â€śItâ€™s definitely a good feeling,â€ť Litwinko said. â€śAngela is obviously a huge part of who we are and a huge part of our family, but we have four of our five starters returning. Thatâ€™s a huge plus. Weâ€™ll be back.â€ť