OXFORD -- Brookfield girls basketball coach Maura Keenan knew that defeating Pomperaug, the No. 2 team in the state, in Monday's SWC semifinal would be a tall task.

But, rest assured, Keenan had a formula: Control possession, hold the ball until a good shot presented itself and play strong halfcourt defense.

For the first 15 and a half minutes, her formula worked to perfection.

The Bobcats, who lost 70-39 to Pomperaug in the regular season, had the ball and a chance to cut the lead to 22-18 with 34 seconds to go before halftime.

Then, that formula -- namely the "control possession" part -- unraveled.


In the final 34 seconds of the first half, Pomperaug converted a steal into a Morgan Manz layup, another steal into a Kasey Dean layup (plus the foul) and a Dean missed free throw into an offensive rebound and a Nicole Welton jumpshot.

From there, the floodgates opened even further and Pomperaug (20-1) emerged with a 55-36 victory, which advances the Panthers to Friday's SWC Final versus Lauralton Hall.

"That 34 seconds made a big difference," Keenan said. "That was a six-point swing and a big momentum shift."

Pomperaug All-State center Katie Cizynski, despite early foul trouble, scored a game-high 20 points and pulled in seven rebounds.

Cizynski was aided greatly by the defense of guard Gabby Holness, a first-year player who started the year on the freshman team and has since worked her way into the varsity starting line-up.

Holness denied the Bobcats from getting the ball to star shooting guard Brittany Martelle and forced Martelle into taking some difficult shots once she got possession.

"(Gabby) does the dirty work for us and she does a good job," Cizynski said. "She hustles on defense and she can definitely provide some offense too."

Holness finished with six points on the night while Morgan Manz, the first Panther off the bench, made two 3-pointers and contributed 10.

McDonald's All-American nominees Welton (headed to Division II Dominican College in the fall) and Dean (signed with Division III Brandeis) each added seven points.

Martelle scored a team-high 17 points on 6-for-17 shooting for Brookfield.

The Bobcats, who head into States with a 17-4 record, earned a first-round bye and the No. 1 overall seed in the Class M tournament.

It's a number that the Bobcats aren't taking for granted.

"Everyone will see that we're No. 1 and they're going to be gunning for us," Martelle said. "Everyone wants to knock off the No. 1 team. So we're not being cocky about it or anything like that. We're excited that we're the top seed, but we're going to play just as hard as we would if we were No. 16."

BROOKFIELD (17-4): Brittany Martelle 6 2-2 17; Krista Melchione 3 1-5 7; Julia Deppi 1 2-2 4; Claudia Bartoli 0 0-0- 0; Jackie Brown 0 0-0 0; Jaimie Bickelhaupt 1 2-4 4; Paulina Heron 0 0-2 0; Erin Reelick 1 0-0 2; Maureen Vetter 0 0-0 0; Kerry Fleming 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 7-15 36

POMPERAUG (20-1): Haili Welton 1 1-2 3; Nicole Welton 3 0-0 7; Gabby Holness 3 0-0 6; Kasey Dean 3 1-3 7; Katie Cizynski 9 2-2 20; Morgan Manz 4 0-0 10; Mary Haase 1 0-0 2; Lauren Baranowski 0 0-0 0; Kate Nadler 0 0-0 0; Morgan Keith 0 0-0 0; Jess Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 4-7 55

BROOKFIELD 10 6 10 10--36

POMPERAUG 15 13 16 11--55

3-pointers: B--Martelle 3; P--Manz 2, Nicole Welton