HARTFORD >> It’s been quite awhile since the Creed boys basketball program had played in a state quarterfinal.
That was seven years ago, when Creed was then known as Hyde, and the Howling Wolves had the perfect 27-0 season en route to their second Class S state championship.
The years have been lean since until Creed turned two long road trips to Litchfield County last week into wins to open this year’s Class S tournament. Monday’s opponent, Aerospace, is just in its third season as a varsity program and hadn’t won a tournament game.
Now the Jets have won three. No. 12 seed Aerospace put on a big second-half performance to oust No. 20 Creed 62-46 at Learning Corridor.
“We’re very motivated by the fact that we are still the small school, no one picked us, or have another team going past us and us probably not winning in the first round,” Aerospace coach Dean Parkington said. “That’s what motivated us and we have a great group of guys.”
Aerospace has now beaten two straight Shoreline Conference schools (at East Hampton in the second round) and now faces another, top-seeded Westbrook, in Wednesday’s semifinals.
The Jets scored on eight of their first nine baskets to start the second half, shredding Creed’s half-court defense. A 15-1 run built Aerospace’s four-point halftime lead (29-25) to 44-26 before the midway point of the third quarter.
“If we can get to the rim, I will take two points over three every day,” Parkington said. “Those guys in there (locker room), particularly the seven seniors that we have, they were a three-win team two years ago. … They have taken it to another level. All the credit goes to them. Every win we get is because those guys have the biggest hearts.”
Said Creed coach Steve Jefferson: “They unleashed a blitz in the third quarter and we didn’t recover.”
Larry Okonya had 14 of his team-high 22 points in the second half as the Jets (16-7) didn’t even attempt a three-point shot in the second half. Almost every shot was at the rim, on a drive or putbacks as the Jets used their size advantage.
“Their bigs were like dirt devils, constantly in the paint. We told our guards who are otherwise pretty good defensively that we didn’t do a good job of negating their advancement of the ball. They pushed it up quick and were able to make quicker decisions before we could react.”
Creed (13-11) never could get the deficit back into single digits. Angel DeJesus added 12 for the Jets.
“We commended our guys before the game for getting here, as a coaching staff we appreciate their effort,” Jefferson said. “The student-athletes who return will learn from this.”
Tyrease Sheats and Marquel Lloyd had 16 and 14 points, respectively, to lead the Howling Wolves. Keyshon Saunders finished with 13 rebounds, but Aerospace doubled up the rebounding advantage (32 to 16) through three quarters.
The 2016-17 campaign ended with promise and Jefferson, the only varsity head coach in the program’s history, intends to build from here.
“I believe there’s about two more years left in my tank,” Jefferson said.
AEROSPACE 62, CREED 46
Creed 15 10 11 10 – 46
Aerospace 14 15 20 13 – 62
Duane Davilla 2 2-2 6, Marquel Lloyd 5 1-5 14, Syris Davilla 2 0-0 4, Tyrese Thomas 1 0-1 2, Keyshon Saunders 2 0-0 4, Marion Lloyd 0 0-1 0, Tyrease Sheats 4 7-8 16, Edwin Rivas 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 10-17 46
Angel Dejesus 3 4-6 12, Brandon Boswell 3 2-2 8, Marquis Hawkins 3 3-9 9, Joshua Riggs 1 4-6 6, Larry Okonya 10 2-3 22, Chris Jacobs 2 1-5 5. Totals: 22 16-31 62
3-point goals: Creed 4 (Lloyd 3, Sheats 1); Aerospace 2 (Dejesus 2); Records: Creed 13-11; Aerospace 16-7