The Blue Devils pushed the ball. And pushed it. And pushed it some more.
Coginchaug's fast break may have kept going on Saturday had it not been for the final buzzer in the team's 58-48 win over Capital Prep in the Class S title game at Mohegan Sun Arena.
"They pressed Portland and it worked for them. We noticed they took the press off right away in the first quarter," Coginchaug coach Rett Mancinelli said after the team's first ever state championship. "We wanted to face that pressure because that's what we do best."
What the top-seeded Blue Devils did best against the bigger Trailblazers was rebound and run. Coginchaug finished the game with a 45-33 advantage on the glass, leading to many fast break opportunities.
Senior Lauren Esposito was on the receiving end of several of those fast breaks and led the team with 18 points and nine rebounds despite playing the game at less than 100 percent.
"I was sitting at the Mercy game (Friday night) and I knew I had a fever but my teammates, who I love so much, brought me all the medicine I needed," Esposito said. "I woke up and I felt a lot better. My chest was just tight."
Coginchaug as a team looked tight in the early minutes of the game, falling behind 5-3 after turning the ball over on back-to-back possessions. But the Blue Devils settled in and began attacking the Trailblazers' defense.
"Two days ago, we had the boys team come in and press us. They helped us so much, work on pressure and being able to handle it so we were ready," said Samantha Mancinelli, who finished the game with nine points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Shoreline MVP Audrey Biesak (11 points, 5 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer shortly before halftime to give the Blue Devils a 30-23 lead heading into the locker room.
In the second half, while Capital Prep struggled to slow down Coginchaug's transition game, the Trailblazers were unable to finish on the offense end. The team shot 1-10 from 3-point range and just 33-percent overall for the game.
The Blue Devils' defensive stopper, junior Jessica Solomon, scored 10 points — including a crucial jump shot in the final minute of the game — while holding freshman center Kiah Gillespie to just two points on 1-of-9 shooting.
"She's twice her size and [Jessica] just doesn't quit. She's not afraid to guard anybody," coach Mancinelli said.
With time running out in the third quarter, Biesak banked a deep 3-pointer to give the Blue Devils a 48-36 lead. The Trailblazers appeared to put the pressure on Coginchaug mid-way through the fourth quarter when they scored on three consecutive possessions.
"We just knew if we get stops, if we just keep helping each other because they were driving the lane and then they would pull up. We didn't lose faith in each other at any moment," said Esposito.
Coginchaug held Capital Prep scoreless in the final 1:33.
"This feeling is incredible. This is just amazing, being a state champion. I can't believe it," Biesak said.