Hartford girls battle hard in Class D title defeat
No one, not even head coach Jason Johnson, expected the Hartford girls basketball team to be in this position. A year removed from a sectional championship, regional championship and trip to the state final four, Hartford collected just six regular-season wins. Two 1,000-point scorers graduated last June.
Yet here the Tanagers were, one win away from a repeat.
Top-seed Bishop Gibbons had other plans. The Golden Knights jumped to an early lead and fought off every four-seed Hartford comeback attempt to claim the Section II Class D crown with a 58-48 win.
It was the first sectional crown for Bishop Gibbons since 2019.
“I didn’t think we were going to be here a year later, but it’s a rebuilding year, we got here, and we know what we’re going to work on now in the offseason,” Johnson said. “I’m so ecstatic. I have every one of them playing in the offseason, so it’s just going to be getting faster and stronger.”
The Golden Knights got off to a quick start, taking a 5-0 lead and extending it to 18-8. Bishop Gibbons led 18-9 after a quarter and appeared to have all the momentum.
Hartford began to roll in the second. The Golden Knights led 21-9 after a trey to open the stanza, but the Tanagers chipped away after that. Cailin Severance scored eight straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers to pull Hartford within 26-22 at the half. Bishop Gibbons was hampered when one of its leading scorers, Mia Rose Wylie, picked up her third foul which relegated her to the bench for several minutes.
Severance nailed another deep shot to open the second half to make it 26-25, but Bishop Gibbons would not let the Tanagers take the lead. A 6-0 run made it 32-25. A 3-pointer by McKenzie Johnson sliced Hartford’s deficit to 33-30, but the Golden Knights held a 42-39 advantage heading to the fourth. Ava Nadeau helped keep the Tanagers close with six key points off the bench in the quarter.
Bishop Gibbons put the game away in the final frame. A 9-2 run to start the quarter gave the Golden Knights a 53-41 cushion and they didn’t let Hartford closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Angelina Dietz led Bishop Gibbons with a game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds. Wylie added 20 points for the Golden Knights. Alannah Kelly had 10 boards.
Johnson led the Tanagers with 14 points and five steals. Severance finished with 13 points. Alawnah Dunda chipped in six points and eight boards.
Dietz was named the tournament MVP. Johnson and Severance earned all-tournament team honors from Hartford.
“Next year we’re definitely going to have a good team, so we’re looking forward to coming back here,” McKenzie Johnson said.
“It honestly shocked me that we even got this far,” Dunda, a junior forward, admitted. “From losing Gabbie (McFarren) and Karlee (Nims) from last year, and Izzy (French), I didn’t even think we could do this. But we worked so hard.”
The young Tanagers’ team ends the season 8-14. With no seniors on the roster, Hartford should be in position to make another run next season.
“These kids give me everything they have anytime they want it,” Johnson said. “They (Bishop Gibbons) have some height and size, so we lost out on some of the rebounds we’ve normally been getting throughout the season. My two bigs down low did work really hard to get some as best they could.”
The Golden Knights are 15-7 and move on to regional play next Saturday back at Hudson Valley Community College.