BRISTOL - The Berlin girls basketball team still hasnâ€™t forgotten. It wonâ€™t let itself forget.
Last March, the Redcoats came just short of a trip to the state final when they fell to Sheehan in the Class M semifinals, and ever since, the team has had its sights set on getting back and avenging that disappointing defeat.
â€śWe got so close,â€ť junior Wynter Yovan said. â€śIt still bothers us that we got that close and lost.â€ť
Of course, Berlin has to get to the state tournament first before it can avenge that loss, and itâ€™s doing a heck of a job making sure it will have a chance for redemption. After a dominant 54-34 win over Bristol Central on Friday night, the Redcoats have now opened the season with eight straight wins, with an average margin of victory of 17.5 points per game. If the Redcoats really are still angry about last seasonâ€™s loss to the Titans, theyâ€™re certainly taking it out on every opponent that gets in their way.
â€śItâ€™s just incredible,â€ť head coach Sheila King said of the teamâ€™s fast start. â€śIt speaks to the character of these kids. They want it so badly and they want to extend the season, and theyâ€™ve done that already. Theyâ€™ve already qualified for states. We can check that off, but we have a lot of work. We still have to get a lot better than we are.â€ť
Thatâ€™s right. Berlin has already qualified for the state tournament, and has still yet to lose a game. The teamâ€™s eight straight wins to open a season is the most by the program since at least 2006, and the win streak is the most by the program at any point in a season since the team won a ridiculous 17 in a row back in the 2012-13 season. The Redcoats started last year 7-0 and came up short in the postseason, so this yearâ€™s group is looking to do even better. So far, it has.
â€śWe just have faith in all of us together as a team, and our ability to work together,â€ť Yovan said.
Yovan was a big part of Friday nightâ€™s win, scoring a career-high 18 points as she continues to become a bigger part of Berlinâ€™s offense. Yovan was depended on for rebounds last season, but now is providing so much more, and the Redcoats are looking like a better team because of it.
â€śShe had a great night,â€ť King said of Yovan after Friday nightâ€™s win. â€śShe worked in the offseason in creating space for herself and developing an outside shot, and sheâ€™s done a great job for us.â€ť
The entire team put in work over the summer, hungry to get back to the tournament and make things right. Itâ€™s hard to deny the teamâ€™s focus on achieving that goal, as it seems to be shoving every obstacle out of its way in a charge through the regular season. The scariest part? All-conference forward Ashley Wenzel, who holds the school record for points per game and free throws made, has still yet to return from injury. When she does, this seemingly unstoppable group will somehow get even better.
Despite the extended winning streak and the overwhelming margin of victory, the Redcoats are still focused on improving, and want to pull out all the stops to ensure they will be the ones taking the floor for the state championship game this March. Itâ€™s hard to find areas to improve when youâ€™re 8-0, but King and the team plans on seeking out every possible area where it could get better.
â€śWe push them individually, and it adds to the team,â€ť King said. â€śWe tell them each night that if they make themselves better, it makes the team better.â€ť
Berlin has certainly been doing that so far. The team is off to a historic start, but the Redcoats arenâ€™t focused on that. Theyâ€™re looking for a historic finish, one that ends with a state title.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org