As much as Mackenzie Griffin is looking forward to showcasing her skills on the next level, the simple fact of the matter is that the Trinity Catholic senior isn't quite ready for her high school career to come to an end.
It showed in her play Monday night as an inspired Griffin poured in 33 points, leading No. 14 Trinity Catholic to an impressive 74-54 victory over No. 19 Kolbe Cathedral in the first round of the CIAC Class M tournament.
"When you're a senior you know that your next loss in the state tournament is your last," said the Trinity College-bound Griffin, who added six rebounds, two blocks and two steals. "I'm excited to have at least one more game with my teammates. We were hitting on all cylinders tonight."
The Crusaders (14-8) went 7 of 10 from beyond the arc, but even with their hot shooting they couldn't pull away from the young Cougars (12-10), who closed the first half on a 9-0 run to take a 30-29 lead into the intermission.
The momentum, however, would change in a big way after the break.
Led by Griffin's 15 points, Trinity Catholic outscored Kolbe 30-7 in the third quarter.
It was just the kind of response Crusaders coach Tom Kriz was looking for.
"The girls took what we said to heart in the locker room. They understand the concept of one and done," Kriz said. "Obviously the third quarter was the key. Mackenzie had a terrific game, but it was a real team effort."
Junior Ali Palma connected on four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points, while classmate Kellie Hurd hit three treys en route to 15 points.
Next up for Trinity Catholic is a trip to third-seeded Ellington, which rolled past Weston 62-44. The second-round matchup will be Thursday at 7 p.m.
Aliyah Christy, one of two sophomore starters for the Cougars, had a team-high 20 points. Junior Jasmyn Fogle contributed 11 points and senior Aleece Tillman, one of the top rebounders in the SWC, chipped in seven points.
The slow start to the second half was not uncommon for Kolbe, which saw the fouls pile up as Trinity Catholic scored 12 straight third-quarter points to open up a 44-32 advantage. The Crusaders' cushion ballooned to as many as 24, but the Cougars never did quit.
That's one of the reasons coach Lisa Hodges is optimistic about the future of this tradition-rich program.
"We knew this was going to be a tough season with not a lot of experience on the court and it was a learning experience for our girls," Hodges said. "Going forward we're going to be fine."