By BRIAN JENNINGS
The boys were back in town for senior night in their last home game of the regular season on Friday night, Feb. 20. The Southington Blue Knights (6-14) boys basketball team played hosts to the Bristol Central Rams (14-6).
The Knights had to win out both of their two remaining games left in the regular season, in order to advance to dance in the Class LL Tournament—not bad for a team that began the season at 0-7.
However, the season came to an early end for the Knights, as they lost to the Rams, 66-54.
“A roller coaster is what it is,” said Southington coach John Cessario. “We’re capable of giving up a 10-0 run. We’re capable of scoring eight in a row. We didn’t defend well enough. We needed to do that with the talent that Bristol Central had, and I thought we gave it all we had for all 32. We just didn’t rebound the way we could have. We needed to do more on the defensive end.”
Seniors Mike Pagano, Kyle Borawski, Mike Taylor, and Brett Shaw were honored before the game for their dedication, hard work, and contributions to the boy’s basketball program throughout their four years at Southington High School.
“The seniors attempted to fit in to a first-year, new system,” said Cessario. “They tried to pick people up and lead in their own way. I felt that they were what seniors had to be, and it was great having them. To have them as representatives of how the bar has to be set is something that we can build upon.”
Pagano went 8-for-14 to lead the Knights with 20 points. Nate Blitz (4-for-9) aided with 10 points, while Borawski and Taylor contributed seven points apiece.
L.J. Johnson led the Rams with 15 points on six field goals.
Trailing the whole game behind the Rams, Cessario said he felt that his Knights never gave up.
“They played hard against a very talented team,” he said. “I’m happy that the guys didn’t quit no matter what the score was. We had it cut to eight with a look of a three pointer to potentially cut it to five. There is no quit in the team, which is something that I feel extremely positive about.”
The Knights finished out the regular season with a trip to New Britain High School to take on the Golden Hurricanes (9-11) on Monday night, Feb. 23.
The Knights had a four-point lead by the end of the first quarter, 14-10, and trailed by one heading into the half, 31-30. The Knights came out in the second half and only put up two points in the third, falling to the Golden Hurricanes, 71-44.
The Knights were without their starting point guard, Taylor, due to illness that he had been battling for the past few days. Blitz stepped in at the point and Cessario went with a younger and bigger lineup, starting Jeremy Mercer at center and John Mikosz at forward.
Blitz led the Knights with 11 points on three field goals. Mikosz followed with 10 on four field goals and Pagano with eight on four field goals. Flavian Laporte led the Golden Hurricanes with 15 points on five field goals.
“We did everything we could with the personnel we had,” said Cessario. “Everybody stepped up and played a big enough role as they could have. New Britain played a heck of an emotional game during an emotional night. We got everything we could have out of the guys that were on the floor. My guys didn’t quit in the fourth quarter and that’s something we take a lot of pride in.”
Looking forward to next season, Cessario said he is genuinely excited.
“I liked the experience that the younger guys had,” the Knights coach said. “They’ve been really getting after it. We felt like we’ve developed them. As they begin to mature both physically and emotionally, we really look forward to next December. We are perusing what it is that this school deserves to see and that’s a postseason birth in some way, shape, or form.”
With the loss to New Britain, Southington’s season came to an end. The Knights finished at 6-12, an improvement of five wins over 2014.