By BRIAN JENNINGS
If you’re looking for a place that has buzzer-beating shots and last-second miracles, then the Walt Lozoski Gymnasium at Southington High School is the place to go. The Blue Knights boys basketball team rallied for their first perfect week with a pair of buzzer beating wins at home.
Thursday night, Feb. 5, the Knights (5-10) hosted Farmington (4-11). The score at the end of the first quarter was tied at 13-13, but if the scores at the end of the second and third quarters weren’t an indication of what was to come, then the foul line would prove to be the backdrop of what lied ahead for the Knights.
The Indians led the Knights heading into the locker room at halftime, 25-22. They kept the lead heading into the start of the fourth quarter as well, 35-33, but the Knights kept battling and scraped their way back, shot by shot in the fourth quarter to come within a point of the Indians with seconds to go.
Down three points with about 19 seconds left, Southington coach John Cessario called for a play that would give his Knights two options—a good look down low or a screen on the perimeter for a three-point shot. Neither worked, so Pagano drove to the basket to score with 1.5 seconds left.
Down by one, Cessario called another timeout. He scripted a play to deny the inbounds pass, and went over all the scenarios.
“With 1.5 seconds left to go, down one, the first words out of all of our mouths were it’s far from over,” said the coach. “A hustle play from Kyle Borawski on their best player allowed a tip, a catch, and a shot in one motion while the foul was made. It had a little bit of luck behind it, but a lot of hustle. And we got the call.”
With no time left on the clock, Borawski was put on the line, his team down by a point, two free throw shots, and the game in his hands. He sank both shots to help the Knights earn a one-point win over the Indians, 48-47.
“For him to have gotten fouled as the buzzer was going off and take the two pressure shots is the momentum we’ve had in the last two games before tonight,” said Cessario. “It was a bump-and-grind kind of a game, but a tremendous 19 seconds where the guys really never gave up. It was terrific.”
Mike Pagano (10-18) led the Knights with 24 points and six rebounds. Richard Rivera finished with nine points and 14 boards. Nate Blitz added nine points. Southington out-rebounded Farmington, 33-22.
Trey Witter led the Indians with 28 points on 12 field goals.
Twenty-four hours later, the Knights were back on their court, trying to do it again. The NW Catholic contest proved to be another nail biter, keeping spectators on the edge of their seats once again.
Southington trailed by four points to start the forth quarter, 33-29, and the notion that maybe they were in for another close thriller was looming.
With the game tied at 39-39 and possession of the ball, the Indians were also looking for a last second-miracle, just not from the Knights. A shot from Northwest’s Steve Laffin barely missed off the front of the rim and sent the game into overtime.
“I don’t even know if they look at a scoreboard anymore, which is great,” said Cessario. “They know they’ve got to play hard, value possession, and defend. They know that no matter what the scenario is, those things have to be adhered to. They have to make their free throws and they have to take the best available shot. That’s the culture we’re trying to create.”
The momentum shifted back and forth in overtime and shots were exchanged on both ends of the floor. The Knights were looking to put the game away with seconds to go and the lead, but again did not have possession of the ball.
With 2.1 seconds left and the length of the floor to go, the Indians had another opportunity for a last-second miracle of their own. Laffin was back and laughing this time after he made a three from the top of the perimeter as time expired, tying the score and sending the game into a second overtime.
After that made shot by Northwest Catholic, Cessario said all his Knights were thinking about was the next play.
“One of the things that we definitely wanted to promote to them was you get to play four more minutes of motivating basketball, the same type of basketball that you’ve played in the last 24 hours,” the Southington coach said. “Embrace it, and I thought that they did.”
Second overtime belonged to the Knights, as Southington capitalized off of a couple missed shots and turnovers from the Indians, securing their third straight game in dramatic fashion, 56-52.
Pagano (9-19) led the Knights with 28 points. Rivera (7 points) anchored the inside with 16 rebounds. Blitz scored eight points. Mike Taylor finished with seven.
Laffin led the Indians with 16 points on six field goal attempts.
“We’ll go through whatever result we go through, but we know when we break camp in the locker room, we’re 0-0 going into our next preparation,” Cessario said. “And that’s something I think they’ve all bought into. They know that prior success or failures mean a little, but not a whole heck of a lot when it comes to what you try to prepare for. And that corner that we’ve turned, yeah I feel like we’re all starting to help each other turn toward a next corner.”
The Knights are looking to continue the feel-good winning streak when they host the Simsbury (11-4) this week and visit the Warriors (1-14) at Hall High School over the weekend.
To comment on this story or to contact Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.