Boys basketball: Amistad pressure too much for Stonington in D-IV tourney

Boys basketball: Amistad pressure too much for Stonington in D-IV tourney

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NEW HAVEN — Stonington High got off to a sluggish start in each half Tuesday night.

More problematic were the Bears’ struggles against the Amistad press.

The result was a 67-46 loss to the Wolves in a first-round game of the CIAC Division IV boys basketball tournament at the Amistad gym.

The 10th-seeded Wolves (14-8) moved on to a meeting with No. 26 Rocky Hill in Thursday’s second round. The Terriers beat No. 7 Plainfield, 62-50, on Tuesday.

The No. 23 Bears (10-12), meanwhile, were left to wonder what might’ve been. Had they won, they would’ve hosted Rocky Hill. Instead, their season is over.

“It’s a shame,” Stonington coach John Luzzi said.

The Bears dug themselves a hole immediately, trailing 15-4. But they clawed back, even taking an 18-16 lead before the half ended with the Wolves leading 21-20.

Amistad, which made up for its relative lack of size with quickness, then dominated the third quarter.

Using a variety of presses, the Wolves went on a 19-6 run to open the period to take a 40-26 lead. In the final 1:20 of the quarter, Stonington’s Lennox Deer scored in the paint and Anthony Fry added a free throw to stop the bleeding. But Amistad led 44-29 when the period ended, and Stonington never recovered.

Turnovers against the Wolves’ tenacious press killed the Bears. They finished with 18, nine in each half.

“We were putting guys in the right spots; we were catching the ball in the right spots,” Luzzi said. “We just weren’t attacking when we were supposed to attack. We were catching it and passing backwards, catching it and freezing. It’s catch, rip through, attack, and three-on-two at the other end. We practiced it all week.”

Amistad’s Robert Reed benefited the most. He finished with 21 points, many coming in transition. Star guard A.J. Edwards added 17.

“I thought we had good energy,” Wolves coach Ryan Ott said. “We had good energy on the press. We mixed it up, ran a lot of different versions of pressure trying to keep them off balance.

“We played really unselfishly on offense,” he added. “We had a lot of assists. We did a much better job in the second half of rebounding. I thought in the second quarter they beat us on the boards.”

Zach Scott gave Stonington a glimmer of hope in the fourth quarter. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Amistad’s lead to 51-39 with about five minutes left. But the Wolves responded with a 12-2 run to put the game away.

Scott finished with a game-high 23 points, including five 3s.

“We did a good job for most of the game of knowing where No. 5 (Scott) was,” Ott said. “We lost track of him in the first half for a couple plays, and we lost track of him in the fourth quarter for a couple plays. Other than that, I thought that was a key to the game.”

Concluded Luzzi, “Unfortunately, we came out shell-shocked. Our assertiveness to attack and to get to the basket just wasn’t there.”

Deer, the Bears’ lone senior, finished with six points, six rebounds and six assists. R.J. Parrilla had eight points, four rebounds and three assists, and Marquis Jackson grabbed 14 rebounds.

Ott said he was impressed that Stonington had a successful season despite its youthful roster. The Bears return four starters, Scott, Parrilla, Jackson and center Jacob Geary, as well as Fry, the sixth man, next year.

“I think they’re really good this year, and I think they’re gonna be even better with all the guys they have coming back,” he said.


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