By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington boys basketball finally climbed over the .500 mark with wins over Platt and South Windsor this past week. The Blue Knights found themselves at 7-6 after beating Platt, 69-43, on Jan. 22 and South Windsor, 51-49, on Jan. 25.
It was a tale of two different games, however. For all of the things that went right on the road against Platt, went wrong at home with South Windsor…at least in the first half.
On Tuesday, the Knights led from start to finish and hit the Panthers hard in a blowout victory. Southington used a 19-6 surge in the second quarter to build a 23-point halftime bulge and never looked back.
Four Southington players reached double figures, led by 16 points from Adam Hunter. Billy Wadolowski (15 points), Ryan Gesnaldo (14 points) and Kelly (10 points) also reached double figures for the Knights, who led by 10 points after one quarter.
It wasn’t so easy on Friday.
Jared Kelly made four three-pointers in the opening 16 minutes, but his 12 points were pretty much the lone bright spot for the Knights as the Bobcats snagged a seven-point halftime lead. Kelly had a team-high 13 points in the game.
“We had no rhythm in the first half, none,” said Southington coach John Cessario. “Outside of Kelly’s shots, there was nothing fluid about us.”
Southington had to dig deep in the second half, and it did. The Knights got more physical and used a team effort to overcome the explosive scoring ability of South Windsor’s Justice Ellison (24 points). Ellison torched Greenwich for 56 points in a double overtime loss last December.
In the end, it was a Colin Burdette jumper in the lane in the final seconds that gave Southington the win over Ellison and South Windsor. Some big plays from Burdette’s teammates earlier in the second half helped fuel the comeback after a rough first half.
“There were so many positives that we needed to have happen in the second half,” Cessario said.
Cessario said Burdette’s play in the second half of the third quarter and the whole fourth quarter really got the Knights going. Burdette wound up with 10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and just one turnover.
“He played without fear, and he found guys. It’s not like he just went for shots,” Cessario said. “He did what a point guard is supposed to do. Take what the defense gives you, find guys if you’re covered, and embrace the fact that that assist is worth two to three points for us, and he’s done a great job of that all season.”
Hunter ended up with 10 points and five rebounds, and he came up with some huge plays in the fourth quarter. Hunter scored inside early to cut a six-point deficit to four points. On another play, Hunter threaded a beautiful bounce pass to DelMonte for a layup to get the Knights to within two points at 46-44.
When Gesnaldo sank a 3-pointer from the right wing, Southington led 47-46, its first lead since 16-15 in the second quarter. South Windsor immediately called timeout with 5:10 to play in the game, and no one scored again until Burdette made two free throws with 40.7 seconds left. A little over a minute before Burdette’s foul shots, Gesnaldo (6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) came up with a great steal after a long but empty possession by the Knights.
“He was on his knee, and if he stood up, it would have been a travel, but he was able to flip it to his teammate, great play,” Cessario said.
Ellison was fouled on a 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds left and made all three free throws to tie the game at 49. That set up Burdette for his game-winning heroics.
“We benefited from some very timely plays, and it’s great to see those two senior guards [Burdette and Gesnaldo] do their thing together,” Cessario said.
Up next: Southington’s Tuesday home game vs. Simsbury was postponed by weather. The Knights play at Avon on Friday at 6:45 p.m.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com