The Weston High girls basketball team has reached the state semifinals for the first time since 1995, after the Trojans defeated top-seeded Northwestern Regional in the Class M quarterfinals on Monday night in Winsted.
Ninth-seeded Weston (18-6) will play 20th-seeded Career Magnet (15-8) on Friday night at 7 at Bunnell High School in Stratford.
The last time Weston got this far was in 1995 when the Trojans reached the Class S semifinals. The last time the team was in the finals was in 1975, when Weston won its second Class M title in a row.
In Monday’s game, the Trojans jumped out to a 14-6 lead in the first quarter and never trailed. They held double-digits leads at halftime and at the end of the third quarter.
The Highlanders (21-2) got the lead down five early in the fourth quarter, before Weston pulled away behind Grace Toner’s eight fourth-quarter points.
Toner, who finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, said that playing in the South-West Conference all season made the Trojans prepared for any challenge in the state playoffs.
“We were confident all season, and the SWC is a tough league, so we know we could handle it. We’ve had tough games, day in, day out,” she said.
Katie Orefice led the way for Weston with 18 points, along with five rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
Kate Joyce had 12 points, four rebounds and two steals, and Jen Welsh had seven points, six rebounds, six steals and two assists.
Georgia Burkard was a presence on the defensive end with three steals and two blocked shots, and also had two points. Bridget Angus had two steals and two assists.
Orefice hit for nine points in the first quarter to stake Weston to a 14-6 lead. Northwestern’s Skylar Dimartino hit a long jumper to cut the lead to four early in the second quarter, but Weston responded with a banker in the lane by Burkard and 3-pointer by Joyce. Orefice later score on a drive and then stole the ball and fed Joyce for a layup, putting the Trojans up 25-13. Orefice ended the first half with a 3-pointer in the waning seconds for a 28-15 lead.
Weston opened the second half cold, as the Highlanders cut the lead to 30-23 when Gina Weingart swished a baseline jumper. But Weston answered every run, and when Welsh scored on a putback at the buzzer the lead was 11 points, 38-27, after three quarters.
A floater in the lane by Emma Propfe and two 3-pointers by Weingart got Northwestern to within five points, 40-35, early in the fourth quarter. But the Trojans did a good job spreading the floor, running pick-and-rolls, and making back cuts to get easy shots. After Toner scored on a shot in the lane, the Mountaineers never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“I’m ecstatic. I thought the kids played great. They played together. I’m very, very pleased,” said Weston head coach Dan Rosen, who also felt the Trojans’ tough regular-season schedule prepared them for the state tournament.
“They’re a very good team,” he said of the Mountaineers. “They just don’t play the kind of competition we play night in and night out in the SWC, and I think that’s what showed. The speed showed tonight.”
For Weston’s seniors — Toner, Burkard and Claire DiMarco — advancing to the state semifinals was a huge accomplishment considering where they started. Their freshman season, the Trojans were coming off an 0-20 campaign.
“It’s awesome what we’re doing this year, and when you add to that what happened five years ago, the 0-20, it’s just incredible, and it makes it so much more exciting,” Toner said. “We’ve made an impact on this program and hopefully when we leave it will continue to excel.”
Weston 51, Northwestern 38
Katie Orefice 6 4-4 18; Grace Toner 6 0-0 12; Jen Welsh 3 1-1 7; Georgia Burkard 1 0-0 2; Kate Joyce 5 1-2 12; Bridget Angus 0 0-2 0; Linsey Kuzma 0 0-0 0; TOTAL — 21 6-9 51
Emma Propfe 5 1-2 11; Addie Hester 1 2-4 4; Morgan Daley 1 0-0 2; Natalie Lederman 3 0-2 6; Gina Weingart 4 0-0 11; Skylar Dimartino 2 0-1 4; Jana Sanden 0 0-4 0; TOTAL — 16 3-13 38.
Weston 14 14 10 13 — 51
Northwestern 6 9 12 11 — 38
3-pointers: Weston – Orefice (2), Joyce; NW – Weingart (3).