If you think picking an all-decade girls' hoop team is easy, think again

So much for an all-decade team serving as an amusing distraction. This was hard. Harder than the boys’ team. And also testimony that the Eastern Connecticut Conference may have been the best league in Connecticut in girls’ basketball — at least at the top — for the entire decade. 

Three different schools (Bacon Academy, New London and Norwich Free Academy) won a combined five state championships. There was a Gatorade Player of the Year (Katie Mahoney of Bacon) and a number of Division I players. Try coming up with an all-decade team of 10, plus other amenities.

But this is why we get the big bucks. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section. 

Team of the Decade 

New London, 2017. This was Holly Misto’s first state title team in Whalerville. Finished No. 1 in the state and won the Class LL title before the largest crowd ever to watch a girls’ high school basketball game in state history. 

In the state tournament, the Whalers defeated E.O. Smith (with Gatorade Player of the Year McKenna Dale), beat Stamford at the buzzer, clobbered Enfield (with Providence-bound center Mary Baskerville) in the semis and won the title against No. 1 (but not for long) Trumbull before more than 8,100 fans.

Lots of personality on this team, too. India Pagan, Jada Lucas and Spencer Roman, among others, filled Conway Gym routinely and captured the fancy of a city whose athletic passions are normally reserved for the boys. 

Program of the Decade

New London. The Whalers made the state finals four times. And not in Class S, either. New London won two state titles, three league tournament titles and commanded the attention of the state both for the rebirth of a program and then continued excellence under both Kerrianne Dugan and Holly Misto. 

Player of the Decade

India Pagan, New London: Pagan, a center, led New London to the state finals three times, the 2017 championship and No. 1 ranking. She averaged 15.8 points and 15.8 rebounds in the state tournament in 2017. Pagan was named all-state twice, the ECC tournament MVP, Day All-Area Player of the Year and went to play at Division I Stony Brook. She has a chance to play in the NCAA tournament and the Olympics (for Puerto Rico) this year. 

She left New London having eclipsed 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Game of the Decade 

March 9, 2017: New London 58, Stamford 56. Conway Gym, where winning is expected, isn’t big on court stormings. But it was on this night. Rosi Nicholson’s rebound basket at the buzzer gave the Whalers a berth in the Class LL semifinals and a win over the defending Class LL champ. The student section, filled even with the boys’ team, stormed the floor. A week later, New London won a state title and was ranked No. 1 in Connecticut. 

The lead changed hands six times in the fourth quarter of this game. Day Scholastic Sports Editor Vickie Fulkerson’s account: 

“With the game tied at 56, the rebound off Jada Lucas' 3-point field goal attempt came to Nicholson on the right side. She stood there with it for a heartbeat, then two — as three towering Stamford players stood over her — an immovable fortress. Then Nicholson leapt. As high as she could.

"The New London fans, including the boys' basketball team — which had its own game moved from Thursday night to Friday so as not to conflict with the girls — stormed the court. Lucas, a senior, wept tears of joy while Misto took a minute to rest on one knee next to the Whalers' bench.” 

Classic stuff. 

Coach of the Decade 

Holly Misto, New London: This was not easy. Bill Scarlata of NFA, for my money the best girls’ basketball coach in the history of the state (seven state titles) won a state championship and five ECC titles during the decade. 

Still, Misto went 123-12 in five years. She had the decade’s best individual team (2017, the No. 1 team in the state) and did we mention she went 123-12? Misto assembled an all-female coaching staff that completely connected with her players, illustrating what daily empowerment looks like. 

All-Decade Team 

I chose 10 players. As was the case with the boys’ team, I used input from several sources, most notably Fulkerson. The following 10 players were chosen based on individual performance, team achievement, demeanor, leadership and interest in being productive without the ball (passing, screening, rebounding, hustling, etc.) I mention this because if you think merely scoring a lot of points scores points with me, you would be mistaken.

In no particular order: 

Cebria Outlow, NFA: She was The Day’s 2014-15 All-Area Girls' Basketball Player of the Year, averaging 17 points and 7.8 rebounds as a junior and was named Most Valuable Player of the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament. She came back as a senior and eclipsed 1,000 points in her career. Played Division I at Central Connecticut and Tennessee State. Her brother, Marcus, is a member of the boys’ all-decade team. 

Alyssa Velles, NFA: A three-time member of The Day’s All-Area team who played at Division I St. Peter’s. Velles was named to the New Haven Register and CHSCA all-state first team her senior season, scored 1,314 career points, and had 472 rebounds, 230 steals along with more than 200 made free throws. NFA won the ECC title in her junior and senior seasons. 

Hailey Conley, NFA: One of the best 3-point shooters in ECC history. As a senior (2016-17), she averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game, made 62 three-pointers and tied the school record for most 3s in a single game (seven). Conley was named all-state and eclipsed 1,000 points. NFA went 23-6 her senior year. 

Kastine Evans, NFA: Evans only played one year in the decade, but led the Wildcats to the 2010 state championship. And she was really good. To wit: Evans averaged 19.3 points, six rebounds and four assists, leading NFA to its second straight ECC and Class LL championships as a senior. She was also the state Gatorade Player Of the Year and played at Division I Kentucky. 

India Pagan, New London: for all the aforementioned accolades as Player of the Decade. 

Jada Lucas, New London: Maybe the best guard in New London history. Lucas was a 1,000-plus point scorer and a four-time All-ECC pick (averaging more than 20 points per game as a freshman and sophomore). She was an all-state pick her senior year and ran the show for New London’s 2014 and 2017 title teams. Lucas plays at Division I Hartford. 

Charee Osborne, New London: An all-time favorite of the Day sports staff. The personality to match her game. She scored 1,117 points and was the enforcer on the Whalers’ 2014 title team. Osborne went to play at Roxbury Community College and later at Division I Fairleigh Dickinson. My favorite story about Charee comes from Chuck Potter, a former Day columnist who became the behavioral specialist at New London High. Whenever boys in the school would misbehave, Potter would tell them, “if you don’t stop, I’ll send Charee after you.” 

Katie Mahoney, Bacon: Mahoney, the granddaughter of legendary Bacon coach Dave Shea, was named the 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year. Mahoney's teams won three ECC division titles, an ECC tournament championship and a Class M state title in her four years. She is Bacon’s career leading scorer who played at Division I Brown University. 

Adily Martucci, Waterford: One of the best all-around players in Waterford history. She finished with 915 points, 352 rebounds and 277 assists. The Lancers won 16 straight games her senior year as she was an all-state and All-Area selection. She not only played at Division I Quinnipiac, but was instrumental in the Bobcats’ run to the Sweet 16 two years ago. 

Taty LaFrance Boyce: If Heather Buck is (rightfully) considered the best girls’ player in Stonington’s history, LaFrance Boyce isn’t far behind. She scored 1,699 points in her career and continued her success at UConn Avery Point and Division I Bryant. Only Buck scored more. LaFrance Boyce was named to the all-state team her senior year. 

Also considered: Lexus Childs-Harris (New London), Deanna McCarville (New London), Tai Pagan (New London), Xaryia Melendez (New London), Rosi Nicholson (New London), Spencer Roman (New London), Mia Brennan (Waterford), Megan Bauman (East Lyme), Jenna Schumacher (East Lyme), Taylor McLaughlin (Bacon), Margot Calmar (Stonington), Mackenzie Burke (NFA), Caitlyn Dittman (St. Bernard), Michelle Klinikowski (Ledyard), Sarah Serbascewicz (Ledyard).

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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