By Rick Menning
HAMDEN, CT -- For the Hamden High School girls' varsity basketball and ice hockey (coop) teams, the date of February 22, 2023 will be long remembered for its incredible significance to both Dragons Nation and a city already in the collegiate sports spotlight.
In fact, it was inside the M&T Bank Arena -- where the Quinnipiac University Bobcats excel in both hockey and basketball -- that Hamden High School's undefeated girls' basketball team (23-0) put the exclamation point to an historic day by wrapping up a Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) season of brilliance on the hardwood.
The Dragons' title-clinching 70-57 victory over Sacred Heart Academy came just hours after a similar Green Machine -- this one on skates -- advanced to Saturday's (Feb. 25) SCC championship game against a coop squad from West Haven High School and --you guessed it -- Sacred Heart Academy.
While thrilled about her own team's sensational accomplishment, Hamden High School varsity girls' basketball head coach Amanda Forcucci praised the achievement of the ice Dragons that made a great day even greater.
"Yay! We heard that they had won earlier and that's outstanding!" Forcucci said while applauding the skaters' performance. "It's just a mindset at the school of hard work and effort that you saw here tonight and obviously at that (hockey) game. So proud of them also."
The one-two punch of success from the hoops and hockey teams at critical junctures of the SCC playoffs made for an exceptional Wednesday to remember for the Hamden High School athletics program.
First came the matinee attraction in Northford.
The Dragons' blade brigade traveled to Northford Ice Pavilion and earned a hard-fought 4-2 victory over Daniel Hand coop in an SCC semifinal showdown.
Allie Grice, Giada Broccoli, Ava Martin and Josie Bourque (goal and assist) led the balanced scoring production, while goalie Marcia Colten stopped 28 of 30 shots by the host Tigers.
Jozie Becker was clutch with three assists, and Trinity Sweeney added a pair of helpers.
Kendall Dobratz and Brynn McKeown had the goals for Daniel Hand.
SCC crown at stake
With the victory, the Dragons travel to the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven for a 7:15 p.m. championship-deciding encounter with the host Westie Sharks, who triumphed over defending SCC champion Guilford 5-1 in its semifinal on Wednesday.
Much like Hamden, the West Haven High School/Sacred Heart Academy coop squad shared the wealth on the scoring ledger with Juliana Gonzalez (goal and assist), Taylor Alfano, Ashley Welch (goal and assist), Geena Montano and Julianna Montano all putting pucks into the net. Heather Fonda and Julianna Picard contributed helpers.
Then, in the evening, it was the Hamden High School sneaker set's turn to take center stage and they put forth a command performance.
Playing in front of a tremendous and vocal crowd that made for an amazing atmosphere in its collegiate setting, the Dragons' ballers made a huge statement with a convincing win over Sacred Heart Academy.
Shooting a fantastic 48.9 field-goal percentage (23 of 47) and 44.4 percent from beyond the three-point arc (4 of 9), Hamden took control midway through the first period and never looked back.
Gianna Donnarummo had three of those four long-distance swishes and finished the game with a team-high 20 points. Alana Philpotts was close behind with 19 points, while Leah Philpotts and Kamora Moore also logged double figures in scoring with 13 and 10 points respectively.
Leah Philpotts was a monster around the glass with a game-high 18 rebounds.
Despite facing an uphill climb since taking an early 7-2 lead just minutes into the contest, the Sharks made a remarkable comeback bid with an amazing 31-point fourth quarter to make things interesting down the stretch.
Emma Kirck was huge in that fourth quarter surge and she put up 20 points on the night. Lyla D'Errico (17 points) and Morgan Miller (12 points) also lit up the scoresheet with double figures. Miller and Kirck combined for 15 rebounds.
Hamden now advances to the state playoffs.