Lauralton Hall is going to the Class LL basketball championship game, and Seymour native Olivia Levey is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s very exciting, and we have to keep pushing,” Levey said after the senior scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds when the second-seeded Crusaders won a 44-36 decision from the third-seeded Eagles from Trumbull High in the semifinals before a packed house at Fairfield Ludlowe on Monday night.
“Trumbull gave it everything they had and we had to counteract that. This is a team game and it was a team win.”
Lauralton Hall (21-1) will play top-seeded Mercy High of Middletown (22-1) for the title on Saturday at the Mohegun Sun Arena in Uncasville.
“Since the Monday before Thanksgiving these girls have been working for this,” Lauralton coach Amanda Forcucci said. “I’m so happy for them, elated to see what happens when you put all that (work) together.”
Michelle DeSantis scored 12 points, including four straight free throws down the stretch, as the Crusaders held off the 20-3 Eagles.
Levey scored off a Carly Fabbri assist to open the game and the senior forward then assisted on an Emma McCarthy hoop.
Fabbri’s 3-pointer gave Lauralton a 7-5 lead before Trumbull took a 10-9 lead at the break.
The Crusaders’ Bianca Robertson, Levey, McCarthy and Emily Bonzagni were charged with keeping Trumbull’s talented forward Erin Moore under wraps.
Robertson grabbed an offensive rebound and on the same possession saved a turnover, as the Crusaders matched Trumbull’s intensity.
McCarthy scored seven of her nine points in the second quarter, including a run-out three-point play.
Lauralton took a 23-16 lead into the half on Maggie Salandra’s clutch 3-pointer off a pass from Fabbri.
Salandra had a free throw and a 3-pointer off one of DeSantis’ six assists, to put Lauralton up by nine early in the third quarter.
Levey had two baskets in the period, including a nifty hook shot over Moore at the five-minute mark.
Trumbull rallied behind Moore, who scored all eight of her points in the period, before Bonzagni came up with a loose ball and was fouled going to the basket.
She made both freebies for a 33-24 lead.
Trumbull’s Alexa Pfohl hit what could have been a momentum-shifting 3-pointer with 22 seconds left, but again DeSantis had an answer as she beat the clock with a driving layup.
Lauralton took a 35-29 lead into the fourth period.
Pfohl scored seven of her 10 points in the final stanza, when the Eagles twice drew within three points and trailed only 38-36 with 2:51 remaining.
Limited to three free throws up until this point, Fabbri drew contact while scoring on a baseline drive and Trumbull called for time down four with 2:14 left.
The Eagles turned the ball over twice on their next two possessions and that’s when DeSantis made her four free throws.
“The ultimate compliment is to play well when challenged, and Trumbull is a phenomenal team,” Forcucci said.
“They have an inside-outside game and are very patient on offense. On defense, they know their assignments and we knew after beating a great Career team (in the quarterfinals) they’d be ready.
“We knew we had to be poised and ready to play defense for as long as it took, because they will run and rerun their sets looking for an opening. Their defense sagged in to double Olivia and then knew when to lay off.”