It’s never easy to stomach a state tournament loss.
But Woodstock Academy girls’ basketball coach Will Fleeton was hardly disappointed March 9.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
The Academy, the sixth-seed in the Class L state tournament lost to No. 3 Farmington, but didn’t go down without a fight, 52-44, in a quarterfinal game.
“I think we played with tremendous heart,” said Fleeton. “Absorbing everything that has happened this year, throughout this whole season, I’m nothing but proud of them. I’m proud of what they displayed (Friday).”
The Centaurs were the underdog.
Farmington plays in a difficult Central Connecticut Conference and had put together a fine 17-4 season prior to the state tournament.
The Indians featured three players, Isabelle Lipinski, Chardae Saunders and Molly McGuigan, who all hovered near or above six-feet.
That length and the ability to shoot from the outside caused the Centaurs (17-7) some trouble early.
Farmington doubled up on the Centaurs in the first quarter, jumping out to an 18-9 lead after a 3-pointer by sophomore Rylee Fountain (10 points).
But the Centaurs didn’t lose sight of the Indians.
Mackenzie Cayer picked up where she left off.
The senior hit six 3-pointers against Bacon Academy in a second-round win, she hit the first of her five 3-pointers to cut Farmington’s lead to six at the end of the first.
“Big players perform in big games,” Fleeton said of Cayer’s game-high 19-point outing.” She’s showed that the past couple of weeks. She shot the ball well again (Friday) and forced them to make some adjustments to try and slow her down. For us to do that speaks to the quality of my kids.”
The Indians were able to stretch the lead again in the second quarter and led going into the locker room, 29-19.
But Fleeton was not disconcerted at the break.
“I felt we were right where we should be,” said Fleeton. “We had just found a couple of openings. Some adjustments were starting to work for us. We had a couple of good possessions going into the half. I didn’t feel too bad. I didn’t think this game was out of reach.”
The Centaurs made some more adjustments at the break as they decided to pay more attention to the 6-foot-1 Lipinski (11 points) who is the catalyst to the Indians’ offense.
“They did a really nice job of not letting us get a lot of our normal stuff inside, cross-screens and stuff like that for her. So we had to find other ways,” said Farmington coach Keith Garbart.
McGuigan picked up her game early in the second half.
The junior forward scored five of her 13 points to put the Indians up, 37-24.
“We couldn’t take anything for granted at that point,” Garbart said. “They are a senior team. They weren’t going to go easily.”
The Farmington coach was correct.
Cayer hit a pair of 3-pointers and baskets by Jamie Woods (11 points) and Heather Converse over the next 2 ½ minutes cut the deficit to five, 39-34, with 7:35 to play.
Just a little over three minutes later, Converse and Woods again hit back-to-back buckets to get the Centaurs back to within one possession, 43-40, with 4:06 left.
“I thought there was a chance. Those adjustments were having an impact on them offensively. We were closing that gap with that good stretch, but we could only get it to (three) and couldn’t get over the hump,” Fleeton said.
The Indians always had the answer.
McGuigan hit a layup to extend the lead to five,  but Cayer answered with a two-point basket to reduce the lead to three, 45-42.
Freshman Emma Novajaski, who led the Indians with 14 points, then added the three biggest points of her young high school career to put the Indians up by six, 48-42, with just 1:30 left.
A Converse basket 18 seconds later made it a four-point game.
“We’re a solid team. I felt we had a chance the whole game,” Cayer said of the four-point deficit.
The Academy was forced to foul and Farmington was up to the task from the line.
Lipinski and McGuigan both hit a pair of free throws each and the Centaurs misfired on a pair of 3-pointers.
It sent the Indians back to the Class L semifinals.
It’s the first time Farmington advanced to the final four since Lipinski was a freshman in 2015.
It was the second consecutive year that the Centaurs season ended in the quarterfinals.
“It’s brutal, one word, it’s awful, but I love my team,” Cayer said.” We had a lot of good runs. We had a lot of good memories that I will never forget. I love (her teammates) to death.”
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director


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