By BRIAN JENNINGS
After the Blue Knights were eliminated from the Class LL state tournament from their 62-47 loss at Bulkeley (9-11) the week before, Southington coach John Cessario stated that his guys were not going to write off the final three regular season games remaining on their schedule. They didn’t.
The Knights were only able to take one game out of the three, and although they fell short to Platt (12-8), 67-60 at home on Tuesday, Feb. 16, Cessario said that he saw nothing, but tremendous effort from his team.
“All three games were a fighter’s match,” the coach said. “To have gone punch for punch with an athletic team like Platt was tremendous. We really handled their pressure and hit some big shots.”
Knights hang with Platt
The Panthers leaped to a 19-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, extending their lead to eight, 37-29, by halftime. But the Knights battled and hung around with the Panthers, cutting the deficit to seven by the fourth quarter.
Nate Blitz scored 18 points on four three-pointers. Mark Lindberg (7 rebounds) also had 18 points with a trio of three’s. Jeremy Mercier produced a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds. Mike DeFeo (5 rebounds, 3 assists) also scored 11, making the help of a pair of three’s.
Victor Altiery led the Panthers with 17 points.
Winning at the line
The Knights earned their lone win, 62-57, of the week when they hosted Hall (3-17) a few days later on Friday.
The Knights took a 13-7 lead at the end of the opening quarter of play, extending their lead to nine, 28-19, by halftime. However, the Warriors jumped out in front by two, 37-35, at the end of the third quarter.
But in the fourth, the Knights outscored the Warriors 27-20, sinking 25 free throws. The Knights went 32-for-43 from the charity stripe in the game, which helped to set the third highest foul shooting percentage (72.6) in a season in the last 25 years.
“If we don’t make those, we lose,” said Cessario. “We have really shown spurts of good basketball. It’s not easy going to the free throw line.”
Lindberg and Mercier (7 rebounds) both paced the Knights with 14 points each. Blitz contributed seven points
The Knights held all-conference player Daniel Brocke to six points in the game. Megel Hudson led the Warriors with 15 points.
Edged on senior night
On Saturday, the Knights hosted East Lyme (10-9) in their senior night game, but fell short, 53-47.
The Knights came out and lead the Vikings by six after the first quarter, 13-7. But the Vikings scrapped their way back to tie the contest at 24-24 at the end of the first half. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Vikings held a 10-point lead.
Blitz anchored the Knights with 14 points. Lindberg and Mercier contributed 11 points each, and DeFeo contributed six.
Dev Ostrowski led the Vikings with 24 points.
“We could have had an emotional letdown because of senior night, but we went punch for punch with them,” said Cessario. “Even though we came up short, we found our silver linings and positives.”
The Knights finished 38th in the CIAC Class LL rankings. Blitz and Lindberg received all-conference honors on the season.
In terms of progress shown throughout the season looking forward to next season, Cessario said that they don’t just look at the varsity program.
“Part of the development of a program is to look at all of the levels,” the coach said. “And where the JV and freshmen won a lot of games, we saw the commitment that’s required…The progression of their basketball IQ and application to the fundamentals is where we measure it.”
The Knights finished their season with a 5-15 record.