By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knight basketball team walked into last week with a record of 5-1 in their last six games. The Knights had an opportunity to qualify for the Class LL tournament for the first time since Southington coach John Cessario took over the program, but instead, cooled off with a pair of losses to respectable conference competition.
However, Cessario said that his Knights aren’t looking too far forward.
“We’ve been in a multigame stretch in a short period of time, and we’re about to hit an even busier stretch,” the coach said. “We’re about to have seven games in 12 days to wrap up the season. We have some work to do, and we have to do it quickly.”
Loss vs. Simsbury
FEB. 3—Southington’s two-game winning streak came to an end when the Knights dropped their sixth game on the year and fell back to .500 after suffering a 46-34 loss to Simsbury at home on Friday. The Trojans are 10th in Class LL and fifth in the CCC.
“I still consider them the best defensive team in the conference, from the teams that we’ve played,” said Cessario. “They really solidify themselves in every defensive set.”
The Trojans led, 28-16, at halftime, outscoring the Knights, 20-9, by the end of the first quarter. As a team, the Knights went 2-for-5 from the foul line.
“That 10-0 run really got us to start the game,” said Cessario. “We went punch for punch, but you have to play all 32 minutes. There’s no time to be taken off.”
Mike DeFeo paced the offense with 11 points on a triad of three-pointers. Andrew Lohneiss contributed with eight points.
Loss vs. NW Catholic
FEB. 4—The next night, hardships continued for Southington on the hardwood, as the Knights fell, 55-40, to NW Catholic at home.
“We know that they want to play fast,” said Cessario. “We know that coming off of a night playing Simsbury, we felt like that was the combination we wanted.”
The Knights led, 20-13, at halftime, but the Lions outscored the Knights, 42-20, in the second half, going on runs of 6-0 and 10-0 late in the fourth quarter. The Knights began the fourth quarter with four-straight turnovers and didn’t have an answer for NW Catholic’s in-your-face pressure from the adjustment of half-court traps in the second half.
“We as ball handlers needed to take care of the basketball a little bit, and we fell short of that tonight,” the said Cessario. “Our first half was pristine, but unfortunately, we didn’t take care of the ball the way that we should have against all of that pressure.”
The Lions had trouble shooting the ball for most of the night and went 0-for-13 from the three-point line.
“We wanted to keep them outside of the paint,” said Cessario. “Whenever you can keep (Christopher) Chapel, (Amir) Spears, and (Luca) Mirabello out of a shooting rhythm, then we’ve done our job. Even though we lost by 15 points, I still feel like we did what we needed to do to keep them in front.”
However, the Lions hit pay dirt by slashing through the lane, going 27-for-32 from the foul line. They made 17 out of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter alone.
“That really did solidify a lot of things with them,” said Cessario. “They went very hard to the rim off of the misses that we had. They wanted to beat us up the floor before we wound up getting into that zone. But I thought our zone was very effective tonight.”
Andrew Lohneiss paced the offense with 15 points on a triad of three-pointers. Brendan Taylor backed Lohneiss with nine points. Jeremy Mercier contributed with seven points.
With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Knights are still two games away from clinching a playoff berth. The Knights will look to qualify for the state tournament this week with games against Avon (6-9), Bulkeley (7-8), and Farmington (4-11). Southington is currently 6-7 overall.
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For a full box score, click here: http://southingtonobserver.com/2017/02/07/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-feb-10-edition/