The second time around: Boys avenge earlier losses to Conard and Simsbury

Mark Lindberg leads a fast break during a recent home game.

Mark Lindberg leads a fast break during a recent home game.

By BRIAN JENNINGS
STAFF WRITER

A single digit win on the road and a four-point triumph at home against a top-10 Class LL team kept the Blue Knights’ (4-11) postseason hopes alive for another week.

After opening the season with nine consecutive losses, Southington has been heating up. The boys have won four of their last six contests with three wins over their last three games to keep their hopes alive.

“We’ve always preached how it’s a new season every time we have a new game,” said Southington boys basketball coach John Cessario. “We’ve never gotten too low after a loss or too high. We always try to stay even-keeled.”

The Knights have to win four of their five remaining regular season games in order to clinch a spot in the Class LL state tournament.

Knights surge past Simsbury

Southington hosted Simsbury (11-4) on Saturday, Feb. 6 and defeated the Trojans, 47-43.

Nate Blitz came out and hit two three pointers to make it 6-0 at about two minutes into the game, helping to lift the Knights to a 14-8 lead by the end of the first quarter.

“We’ve never been so patient, as the way we were in our offense,” said Southington coach John Cessario. “Nate Blitz hitting those three’s set the tone for the excitement of wanting to play defense and prove our worth against two great players [Rayon Christie, Luke Gorkofsky].”

Southington’s lead had slimmed down to five points, 33-28, by the end of the third quarter, but keeping up with Simsbury’s 15 points in the fourth by scoring 14 helped the Knights to hold on to the win.

Lindberg anchored the Knights with 19 points and eight rebounds. Seven of Lindberg’s 19 points came from the free throw line, where he shot 77.8 percent (7-for-9) in the game. Blitz backed Lindberg with 15 points on a trio of three-pointers. Mike DeFeo contributed five points and four rebounds. Jeremy Mercier grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out four assists.

The Knights went 12-for-15 from the free throw line while the Trojans went 1-for-5, and the Knights out-rebounded the Trojans 32-15 (22-7 defensive rebounds).

“Simsbury is led by two college players. They are great senior players that we were focused on,” said Cessario. “Instead of having to focus on one kid, who is capable of scoring 35, we were then looking to change our direction to two players that are capable of scoring 35.”

Christie and Gorkofsky scored 46 of the Trojan’s 59 points in their first meeting between the two teams. Simsbury defeated Southington 59-44 at Simsbury.

However, in this game, the Knights defense limited Christie to a team-high 18 points and Gorkofsky to seven.

“Part of the preparation was to always be aware of where they were on the floor, and to be able to adjust our zone to them,” the coach said. “Our preparation became a reality.”

The Knights held Christie and Gorkofsky to a combined zero points in the first half, which Cessario said lead to a 24-12 lead at halftime.

The loss dropped Simsbury down to 13th in the CIAC Class LL rankings.

Blue Knights clip Chieftains

Earlier in the week, the Knights traveled to West Hartford where they escaped with a 45-44 win over Conard (3-12).

Southington came out of the opening quarter of play with a 9-8 lead and extended that lead to two points, 27-25 by the end of the first half. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Knights climbed up 36-31. In the fourth quarter, Brendan Taylor came up with a big three-pointer, Blitz knocked down two crucial free throws, and John Mikosz embraced the victory in the closing seconds, literally.

With a one-point lead and 2.8 seconds showing on the clock, Mikosz stood at the foul line with a 1-in-1 before him. Mikosz’s shot clanged off the front of the rim and fell back into his arms at the foul line, bear-hugging the ball as time expired.

Blitz paced the Knights for 11 points and Mikosz added seven. Taylor, Jack Herms, and Mark Lindberg all contributed all contributed five points each. Six players scored for Southington in the game.

Conard’s Aidan Maloney hurt the Knights for 35 points in a 62-56 overtime loss earlier in the season, but only scored two points this time around off of two free throws.

“We were able to sustain what really hurt us in the first game,” said Cessario. “We were very in-tune with how they handled the basketball. It was a real back-and-forth battle, but we had great contributions defensively from Brendan and Joe Koczera, who did a great job on their guards.”

Jackson Bell led the Chieftains with 11 points.

The Knights will look to build off of their wins this week when they host Avon (2-12) on Thursday, Feb. 11 and travel to Bulkeley (5-9) on Saturday, Feb. 13.

To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at bjennings@southingtonobserver.com.

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