MERIDEN — And on the 13th day, a ray of good luck.
We roll out installment No. 13 in the “Best of the Bunch” series — finalists for Record-Journal Girls Basketball Player of the Year — as the CIAC releases guidelines for the gradual resumption of high school activities.
While a long, uncertain road lies ahead, there is at least a sense of sports daylight returning, an easing away from the pandemic-forced blackout that dates back to mid-March.
The shutdown started with the cancellation of the winter postseason and, on the ensuing morning, a throng of students from across the state descended on CIAC headquarters in Cheshire to protest the decision.
The Sheehan girls basketball team was well represented in that crowd. The Lady Titans, highest seed remaining the Class MM field, had just seen very real chances of a state title vanish.
One of our finalists for Player of the Year is from that team. And she’s only a junior.
Our two other finalists are graduating seniors. They are both going on to play Division III college basketball.
Thus, for the three, there was always going to be more basketball at some point. Today, we all wake to that sense of tomorrow.
At Sheehan, coach Mike Busillo and the Titans will refire their engines behind Caitlyn Hunt. A cornerstone since her sophomore season, the 5-foot-11 center returned to the All-Record-Journal Team for a second time, was named All-SCC First Team and All-State after a junior campaign in which she led the area in scoring at 17.5 points a game.
Hunt signed off with a combined 38 points in Sheehan’s opening Class MM tournament wins over Wamogo and St. Joseph. How many more were lying ahead in the quarterfinals against East Haven? In the semis? In the finals?
We’ll never know. We do know Hunt was driven to get back to Mohegan Sun after suffering an injury that took her out of the 2019 Class M state title game against Cromwell.
Well, there is always 2021.
While Hunt embarks on another Run to the Sun, our two other finalists will be in the midst of their rookie years in college.
Hailey Bruneau, 5-foot-10 forward from Lyman Hall, is going to the University of Rochester in New York.
Emma Watkinson, 5-foot-10 forward from Cheshire, is going to Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts.
Watkinson was the leading scorer for the Rams in their final season under head coach Michelle Vieria, who stepped down this week after four years for family reasons.
Watkinson averaged 10 points a game as a senior. One of her finest performances came in the home finale, when Watkinson scored 17 points in an overtime win over North Haven.
Bruneau, an All-SCC Second Team selection, was Lyman Hall's second-leading scorer at 8.9 points a game. She was tops in just about everything else: 5.1 rebounds 3.3 steals and 3.3 blocks a game and 35 3-pointers.
As we’ve said before, that's playing every square foot of the court. This past season, in our backyard, these three girls owned it.
The Record-Journal “Best of the Bunch” awards video airs on Thursday, June 18 on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. and will be on myrecordjournal.com afterwards. Finalists will be unveiled now through June 18. Up next: Ice Hockey.