NEW BRITAIN - Mikayla Mobley grabbed an errant New Britain Hurricanes pass near the baseline at the CT Trotters’ (New Britain) defensive end of the court and busted her way through the defense, careening coast-to-coast through traffic nearly 80 feet to her team’s basket.
Mobley finished off the dazzling play by scooping a right-handed layup off the backboard and smoothly through the net while an official whistled for a foul on the Hurricanes.
As the ball bounced off the New Britain High School gym’s floor, Mobley’s face turned upward toward the ceiling, and she let loose with an emotional scream as teammate Pashan Walker embraced her with a smile and high-five.
Mobley’s scream was one of many strong reactions during an intense, emotional gold medal matchup of the 11th grade girls basketball tournament’s Nutmeg State Games that was won, 39-26, by the CT Trotters.
One of the main reasons for those emotions is because of what happened during the two teams’ first matchup in the tournament.
Sunday’s game was in danger of potentially not being played after a Wednesday night contest between the two programs ended in a double forfeit after a benches-clearing incident.
With approximately 11 minutes remaining in the second half of that game, the Trotters led by 10 points when a Trotters player and Hurricanes player got tangled up during a loose ball and went to the floor. Pushing, shoving and more jostling ensued as players and coaches rushed onto the floor to break up the fight.
“It was more pushing and shoving. There wasn’t a lot of punching going on,” Hurricanes head coach Bryan Sweeney said. “One of my players fell down, one of their girls jumped on top. It was like a little melee. We pulled them apart.”
Sweeney said he spoke with the officials at halftime, telling them they needed to control the game more, or things could escalate. That’s exactly what happened.
“That team is very aggressive. I think they’re overly aggressive at times, and I think the game was not controlled properly by the officials,” Sweeney said. “That’s why it got to that point. People were getting frustrated.”
Trotters head coach John Lozefski agreed that the game got out of hand with the officiating playing a large part.
“It just was getting out of control,” Lozefski said. “The referees didn’t take control of the game from the beginning. There was a lot of pushing and shoving going on throughout the game. Everybody just got heated and one thing led to another. It just got out of control. The refs had no control over the game.”
The game was immediately ended by the officials with a double forfeit handed down to both teams, but they each worked their way into Sunday’s championship game for a rematch that could have gone south in a hurry due to pent-up emotions stemming from Wednesday night’s scuffle.
“The officials came to the coaches and told us it’s not gonna happen again,” Lozefski said. “They set it straight. … [The girls] were focused, and all they wanted to do was win. It wasn’t gonna happen again. Me and the other coaches, we talked to the girls.”
Added Sweeney: “In an effort to prevent that - and this is what I told the girls the other night - what we don’t do is if somebody pushes you and is aggressive, you tell the official or you tell the coach. We can’t retaliate because that right there is not professional. We need to let the officials know what’s going on so they can control it.”
Though there were no fights on Sunday, the two teams were still amped up and ready to go, leading to an emotional game, and Lozefski says he wasn’t nervous that another fight would ensue. He just had nerves about winning the game itself.
“I think I had the nerves. The girls were hyped up and ready to go ball. I think I had more nerves than they did,” Lozefski said. “They came in here ready. That’s why they wanted to play so bad and were playing so hard. They were missing a lot of shots in the beginning because we were just looking to run away with it. We had to pull them back.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org