By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knight journey to the Class LL state tournament made its final stop on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Bulkeley High School when they fell short to the Bulldogs (7-9), 62-47. The loss ended Southington’s hopes for a postseason berth with three games remaining.
“They never give up no matter what,” said Blue Knight coach John Cessario “I would put them up against anyone, and we’ve gone up against some really solid teams. We would want them to reap the rewards of three wins to end the season, in order for them to end it on a high note.”
No margin for error
The Knights hosted Avon (4-12) on Thursday, Feb. 11, but fell short, by eight points, 58-50.
The Falcons took a 16-7 lead after the opening quarter and extended their lead to 20 points, 33-13, by the end of the first half. The Falcons maintained their 20-point lead, 47-27, after the third quarter as well. The Knights battled until the end though, outscoring the Falcons 23-11 in the fourth quarter.
Lindberg anchored the Knights with 14 points and DeFeo assisted with 12 on a pair of three-pointers. Jeremy Mercier contributed seven points.
“We played extremely hard and out-rebounded them, but we definitively did not take care of the basketball,” said Cessario. “It’s a tough way to try and win games when you have 20-plus turnovers in a 32-minute game. You have to tip the cap to Avon because they hit some shots, but our effort, as always, has been there.”
Jordan Williams (17 points) and Bryan LaChance (15 points) led the Falcons with a combined 32 points, but Cessario said that other players decided to get involved as well, which hurt the Knights in the end.
“Guys were just too comfortable on the perimeter,” the coach said. “It did go through those two, but other players decided to score, due to us not paying enough detail to the defensive side of the floor at all times.”
Although the Knights are eliminated from the playoffs, Cessario said that they have not written off the season.
Bulkeley ends hopes
The Knights trailed by three points, 10-7, after the first quarter, but the Bulldogs blew the game open and cruised into halftime with a 33-16 lead, outscoring the Knights 23-9 in the second quarter.
“Our first 16 minutes was a little lethargic,” said Cessario. “You can turn the ball over, but when you turn the ball over in the red zone, leading to baskets from the other team, it’s like a four-point swing in the blink of an eye. And that’s something that definitely happened in the second quarter.”
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 20 points by the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Nate Blitz paced the Knights with his second-highest mark on the season of 20 points. Mike DeFeo contributed 11 points and Mark Lindberg added eight.
John Mathis led the Bulldogs with 22 points.
“It was a mirror image of the Avon game,” said Cessario. “We had 20-plus turnovers and I think they were even bigger and faster than Avon. We fought, but unfortunately fell a little short, due to our real need to take care of the basketball.”
With the loss, Southington fell to 4-13. With just three games remaining, Southington is unable to get the eight wins needed for the Class LL tournament, but Cessario said that he liked his team’s efforts.
“There’s no quit in these guys,” he said. “We’ve had incredible practices from two disappointing losses. What we always do is look to get better every day. We are doing everything we can to feel comfortable with the ball in our hands and be able to attack pressure.”
The Knights will look to go out with class when they host their final three regular season games against Platt (10-6) on Tuesday, Feb. 16, Hall (3-15) on Friday, Feb. 19, and East Lyme (8-8) on Saturday, Feb. 20.