By Dave Stewart
STRATFORD, Conn. - Fourteen games into the regular season, the Stratford Red Devils were a mediocre 8-6 and had done little to inspire thoughts of postseason hoop dreams. Two months later, they were crowned Connecticut Class M boys’ basketball champions.
Senior guard and co-captain Tim Martin scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the final three minutes and Stratford overcame an eight-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat Hartford Public, 63-55, in the State championship game Saturday at Central Connecticut State University.
The championship capped a remarkable season for the Red Devils, who finished with a 14-game win streak and also claimed the SWC championship two weeks ago. The State title was the first for Stratford boys’ basketball and it also gave Coach Paul Dudzinski his 200th career victory.
Stratford (22-6), the fifth seed in Class M, was facing a Hartford Public (20-6) team which had earned the No. 2 seed. Top-seeded Killingly was eliminated by No. 17 Bethel, 56-43, in the tournament’s second round and Stratford later knocked Bethel out in the semifinals, 56-46.
The title game was close throughout the first half, with the teams tied 14-14 after one quarter, and Hartford leading by three, 32-29, at halftime. But a 10-2 run midway through the third gave Hartford a 10-point lead; Public led by 48-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
The deficit was seven before Stratford sophomore guard Russell Payton nailed a 3-pointer and senior forward Tom Massey scored on a lay-up to make it 50-48.
Hartford still led 53-50 with 5:52 remaining, but did not score for the next 5:35 as the Red Devils took over.
A free throw by senior guard and co-captain Joe Charles was followed by a 3-point play by Martin, who gave Stratford the lead for good at 54-53. Martin hit eight consecutive free throws during the final run, as Stratford was 10-of-11 from the charity stripe in the final two and a half minutes.
Charles finished with 12 points and two steals; sophomore forward Brandon Sherrod had six points, a team-best 10 rebounds and one block; senior forward Robert Dupree had seven rebounds and two blocks; and Payton had eight points, including two huge 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter.
For Hartford Public, junior guard Arshad Jackson scored 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds; McCoy had eight points and 13 rebounds; and sophomore guard Danny Lawhorn had 12 points and three steals.
Girls Basketball: Cougars Roll to Class L Crown
The Kolbe Cathedral girls’ basketball team moved up in class this season, shifting from Class S to Class L, but achieved the same goals with a 24-2 record and SWC and State championships.
Junior Ashley Prim again played a starring role for the Cougars, scoring 21 points in a 59-48 win over the East Lyme Vikings in the Class L final on March 8 at CCSU.
Kolbe, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, finished the season on a 22-game win streak and won its four State playoff games by a combined 83 points. The Cougars’ closest State games were 11 points — 66-55 against No. 14 Wilbur Cross in the semifinals and against No. 17 East Lyme in the title game.
It was Kolbe’s fourth State championship in the past five years.
East Lyme, the No. 17 seed with a 19-9 record, won four tournament games against higher seeds, including a 55-52 overtime win against top-seeded Wethersfield in the second round.
The Vikings managed to keep it close against the Cougars and even tied the game 43-43 on a 3-pointer by Jessica Blodgett with six minutes remaining. However, Kolbe responded with a nine-point run to take control for good. Prim scored on a lay-up to start the rally, and Ryan Simmons scored the next seven to give Kolbe a 52-43 lead with just over three minutes to play.
In addition to her game-high 21 points, Prim had three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Simmons scored nine of her 15 points in the fourth quarter and also had five rebounds and two steals.
For East Lyme, Emily Walker had 17 points, six rebounds and four steals; Blodgett had 11 points; and Carly Thibault had 10 points and four assists.
Girls Hockey: New Canaan Ices Three-Peat, Downs Greenwich
The New Canaan High girls’ hockey team had been a prime target for opponents this season as the Rams were seen as a team which was ripe for the picking.
When the State championship trophy was finally awarded on March 8 at Yale’s Ingalls Rink, however, it was once again the Rams who were in the winner’s circle.
Sophomore Maggie Burke scored her first two goals of the season as New Canaan shut down the Greenwich Cardinals, 3-0, for the State title.
It was a State championship three-peat for New Canaan (18-4-3), which has now won six titles in the past four years. The Rams had won three FCIAC championships before falling to St. Joseph in overtime this year.
New Canaan and Greenwich (17-5-2) had faced off twice before this season, with the Cardinals winning the first game, 4-2, to break the Rams’ 46-game win streak. New Canaan responded with a strong performance the following month, but had to settle for a 1-1 tie.
The third time was the charm for the Rams, who outshot Greenwich 24-10 in the final, including 21-8 during the first two periods. Goalie Charlotte Spitzfaden, a NCHS sophomore, was perfect with 10 saves to get her seventh shutout of the year.
The key to the game may have come off the ice earlier in the week, when the Rams moved Burke back to forward after she had volunteered for the depleted defensive corps in the preseason. Burke had not scored since last year’s State final win over Guilford.
Burke netted her first goal at 10:41 of the second period and added a second tally during a power play at 12:36, with an assist from senior co-captain Amanda Albertson. The final goal came with 25.1 seconds remaining as freshman Jana Persky scored into an empty net.
For Greenwich, goalie Addie McKeon helped keep the game close by making 21 saves.
Boys Basketball: Warhawks Fly over Cougars in Class S
The seventh-seeded Kolbe Cathedral boys fell prey to the Bloomfield Warhawks, 78-71, in the Class S boys’ basketball championship game at CCSU Saturday.
The Warhawks (15-10) finished the regular season 10-10 and were seeded 21st in the tournament, but toppled five higher seeds en route to the championship. Kolbe finished 21-7.
The Cougars received a fine game from sophomore guard Ronnie Underwood, who netted 20 points and seven rebounds. Senior Zenabaay Moore had 17 points and four steals; junior Dominique Langston had 12 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals; and senior Andrae Beckford had 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
For Bloomfield, Rashad Moore had 22 points, five rebounds and six assists; Marcus Cooper had 18 points, 10 rebounds and three steals; and Ashar Whittingham had 12 points.
Bloomfield led 26-23 after a back-and-forth first half and held a 34-26 advantage before Kolbe went on an 8-0 run to tie it in the third quarter. But Whittingham hit a 3-pointer to put the Warhawks back in front for good as Bloomfield led by as many as 15 in the fourth quarter.
A 10-1 rally by the Cougars closed the deficit to 66-60 and a 3-pointer by D.J. Ellis got Kolbe within three at 72-69 in the final minute, but Bloomfield hit its free throw down the stretch to get the win.
Boys Basketball: Bulldogs bite Trinity in Class LL final
The Crosby Bulldogs and Trinity Catholic Crusaders squared off for a boys’ basketball State championship for the third time in five years and the Bulldogs took the crown, 82-79, in the Class LL final Saturday at UConn's Gampel Pavilion.
The loss overshadowed a superb performance by Trinity junior Tevin Baskin, who scored a game-high 35 points and reeled in 13 rebounds. Crosby had three players in double figures, with senior Lavar Moore scoring 26, junior Anthony Ireland scoring 24 and senior B.J. Moniero scoring 18.
Crosby, the No. 3 seed out of the Naugatuck Valley League, finished the season 26-1, while No. 5 Trinity, the FCIAC champion, finished 24-3.
The Bulldogs led most of the way, but the Crusaders were within striking distance until the final horn. Crosby led 11-10 after the first quarter, 35-28 at halftime and 58-50 heading to the fourth quarter.
The lead was up to 68-59 with just over three minutes to play when Trinity went on a 7-0 tear to make it a two-point game. Baskin started the run and scored six of those seven points.
Crosby’s went on a 6-2 run to make it 74-68 with less than a minute remaining, but Trinity senior John O’Leary drained a 3-pointer to get the Crusaders within 76-73 with 30 seconds to play. Ireland, who was 6-of-6 from the charity stripe in the final minute and 10-of-12 overall, then hit four straight free throws to boost the lead to 80-73.
The Crusaders were down by seven when freshman Mike Scaturchio hit a 3-pointer, drew a foul and hit the free throw with a second remaining.
Crosby ended the season on a 22-game win streak and won its first State championship since 2005 when it beat Trinity, 56-54. The Crusaders beat the Bulldogs, 69-67, in the 2004 Division I final.
Jean-Guillaume had 15 points, for Trinity, while Takari Smalls had eight rebounds and 13 rebounds.
Boys Hockey: Lancers, Mustangs Fall Short in Finals
The SWC’s Notre Dame-Fairfield Lancers dropped a 5-3 decision to the Fairfield Prep Jesuits in the State Division I boys’ hockey final Saturday at Ingalls Rink.
The contest was a battle between low seeds, although both teams are familiar to the State championship game. Prep came in as the No. 11 seed and finished 13-10-1, while Notre Dame was the No. 9 seed and finished with a record of 16-9-1.
The Lancers led three times — 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 — but couldn’t shake the Jesuits.
After Notre Dame’s Mike Canfarotta put his team up 3-2 1:26 into the second period, Prep’s Robert Summerlin put on a show. Summerlin got the equalizer at 5:32 of the second and then put the Jesuits on top 4-3 at 12:35. The score remained there for the next 17:10 until Summerlin finished his hat trick, the game and the championship with an empty-netter with 15 seconds remaining.
Paul Tropsa had a goal and two assists for Prep. The Jesuits outshot the Lancers, 31-30, with Prep’s John Errico making 27 saves and Notre Dame’s Nick D’Aurio making 26 saves.
In the Divison II championship game Friday night at Ingalls Rink, the Amity Spartans scored four goals in the second period to defeat the Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe co-op team, 5-1.
The game was marred by a incident with 3:35 remaining as 10 players - five from each team - were ejected for penalties, including roughing, fighting and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Amity received a four-goal, one-assist performance from senior Brian Kownacki, while Alexander Mansfield made 26 saves in goal.
Chris Genova scored Fairfield’s only goal with Chris Kittredge assisting, while goalie Dan O’Rourke collected 23 saves.
Amity was the No. 4 seed and finished with a 19-6-1 record, while Fairfield, the No. 7 seed, was 13-11-1.
Dave Stewart, the Sports Editor of the New Canaan (Conn.) Advertiser, is a MaxPreps.com writer and photographer. He may be reached at 203-966-9541 or at email@example.com