Berlin girls basketball, without Grega, falls to Jonathan Law in second round of Class MM state tournament

Published on Friday, 6 March 2020 21:09


BERLIN - The Berlin girls basketball team appeared poised to make a deep run in the Class MM state tournament, boasting the top seed and a recent run to the state semifinals. But one stroke of misfortune seemed to derail what had been a promising and dominant season.

Junior all-conference guard Carly Grega was unavailable for Friday night’s second round matchup with 16th-seeded Jonathan Law after suffering a broken nose after the Redcoats’ first-round win, and her absence showed. Berlin’s offense labored while Law’s caught fire, sinking 11 3-pointers and ending Berlin’s season with a 62-47 win, avenging last year’s loss to the Redcoats in the Class M quarterfinals.

“[Carly] had a great season, and we had other kids that stepped in, but sometimes chemistry can get thrown off,” head coach Sheila King said. “But that wasn’t our concern. Our concern was that Carly didn’t get to play in this game, the last game of the season, and she deserved to.”

Berlin trailed by 10 at the half and used a 10-2 run to pull within two early in the third, but the offensive rhythm wouldn’t last, as Law responded with a surge of its own to lead by as many as 18 in the second half.

Lyzi Litwinko, the program’s all-time leading scorer, led the Redcoats with 14 points in the final game of her historic career, but was double-teamed for much of the evening as Berlin struggled to find other weapons to make up for Grega’s absence.

“We felt powerless,” Litwinko said. “To come down and not have Carly on the 3-point line to shoot it really hurt. She would have helped us a lot.”

Law jumped out to an early 4-0 lead on consecutive buckets from Shelby Green and Katie Konareski, then Konareski drilled a three midway through the quarter to open up a 7-2 lead, while Berlin’s offense continued to struggle.

The Redcoats committed four turnovers in the first five minutes and managed just one field goal until Litwinko muscled in a layup while drawing a foul, and completed the 3-point play to cut the deficit to two. Litiwnko tied it with a running floater one minute later, then weaved through traffic for another layup in the final minute to give Berlin its first lead, which it carried into the second quarter despite a rough start without Grega.

The Redcoats’ run continued early in the second with a pair of free throws from Callie Gendron, but Law finally ended the 9-0 surge with a turnaround jumper by Maddie Lula with 6:30 left in the half. Law took the lead back when Lula and Konareski teamed up for back-to-back 3-pointers with just over five minutes left in the quarter, then pushed the advantage to six when Liv Kowalski drained a corner three. Law, which had suddenly caught fire from the floor, then got a baseline jumper from Sarah Paulus to open up an eight-point lead with 3:17 left and force a timeout from King.

“I knew they were capable of that,” King said of Law. “To their credit, they brought in a great game plan and worked hard. They had a lot more than we did tonight.”

King’s timeout didn’t slow down Law, which got another five more points from Kowalski to complete a 13-0 run and send Berlin to the locker room down 10 after a disastrous second quarter that saw Law sink five 3-pointers in a gym where the Redcoats are used to pouring it on from downtown.

Looking to get its offensive swagger back, Berlin opened the second half with a corner three from Litwinko to trim the deficit to seven, then back-to-back layups from Gendron and McGeever cut it to three and forced a second timeout from Law in three minutes. Law ended the run, but Yovan came right back with a three to pull within two.

Law answered behind Konareski, who knocked down her third three and helped push the lead back up to seven with 3:20 left in the third. Another three, this time from Eryn Mower, extended the lead to 10 and erased Berlin’s sudden surge to start the period.

“Quite, frankly, it sucked,” Litwinko said. “They couldn’t miss. We were in their face, but they could not miss. When you’re the No. 1 seed, people are going to come at you and bring their best game, and that’s what they did. They had their best game.”

Kowalski hit again from 3-point range on Law’s first possession of the fourth, then Mower hit from straight on to push the lead to 16 with 6:17 to go, making it 11 triples for Law, who never let the lead dwindle below a dozen the rest of the way.

Litwinko was subbed out with 33 seconds left, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd, both the home and visitor side, acknowledging a memorable career.

“That was a difficult part of the night. Lyzi gave us four incredible years, and the town of Berlin really enjoyed watching her play. She’s an incredible kid and she’s got big things ahead of her.”

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin on Friday, 6 March 2020 21:09. Updated: Friday, 6 March 2020 21:12.