CROMWELL >> The late Jimmy Valvano, the former head coach at North Carolina State, famously said that the postseason is all about surviving and moving on.
That’s exactly what the Cromwell High boys basketball team did Friday night as it won a foul-filled, wrestling match of a Class S quarterfinal tournament game, 53-48, over Immaculate of Danbury in front of a near capacity crowd at the Jake Salafia Gym at Cromwell High.
With the win, the Panthers advanced to Tuesday night’s Class S semifinal round game against Valley Regional at Sheehan (7 p.m.).
“You’re damn right it was a survive and move on kind of game,” said Cromwell coach John Pinone. “There was nothing pretty about that one. We didn’t make shots we usually make, there were too many fouls, we turned the ball over and the game had no rhythm.
“We just don’t know how to close games out and we didn’t do good job of protecting the lead tonight. But we did enough to win and that’s all that matters.”
Cromwell led by as many as 12 points twice in the fourth quarter and with just three minutes remaining were up by 11. But they frittered much of that lead away in settling for a five-point win.
Both coaches agreed that the third quarter was decisive.
“That third quarter killed us,” said Immaculate coach Nelson Mingachos. “We scored just two points [Cromwell had 10] and you can’t win games doing that.”
Pinone said, “Our defense won the game in the third quarter. That’s what we do at Cromwell; it’s always defense first.”
Cromwell (20-2 in the regular season and state tourney) took a quick 7-2 lead, but Immaculate came bouncing back to take a 17-14 first quarter lead on Joey Wallace’s (21 points) buzzer-beating three-pointer. The game was tied three times in the second quarter and on Cromwell’s Logan Lessard’s basket just before the horn, the two teams left the court tied at 25.
But the Panthers took charge in the third, scoring the quarters first seven points to open up a 32-25 lead, holding the Mustangs scoreless for the first four minutes and 50 seconds of the half.
Immaculate never recovered.
“Cromwell played very well in the third quarter,” said Mingachos. “But for most of the game I thought both teams looked tight. Maybe that was because it was the quarterfinals, I don’t know. But it was a game with no rhythm.”
Jake Regula opened the fourth quarter with a trey, giving the Panthers a 38-27 lead and they maintained a lead from between eight and 12 points until the final couple of minutes when Immaculate hit a couple of shots, the Panthers turned the ball over, and generally played like they were losing their heads.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t close the game out well,” said Pinone. “We should have won that game by 10 or 12 points. Those last two minutes were unacceptable.”
Regula led Cromwell with 18 points, Mike McNally had 13 and Josh Green had 11.
Besides Wallace’s 21, Darrius Smith had 19 for Immaculate.
Although Pinone moaned about his team’s free throw shooting, especially in the fourth quarter, it turned out that his club had decent numbers.
The Panthers were 21-for-30 from the line and 11 of 16 in the fourth quarter, enough to hold off the fast-closing Mustangs.
No. 8 Valley Regional 57, No. 1 East Windsor 48
The Warriors advanced to the Class S semifinals by knocking out the top-seeded Panthers Friday night at East Windsor.
Valley built leads of 20-10 after one quarter and 29-22 at halftime.
“We played great defense generated from our energy,” said Valley Regional coach Kevin Woods. “We did the little things well. We shot 17 of 20 from the free throw line and played great team basketball.”
Chris Jean-Pierre powered the Warriors with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds. Jake Luster had 11 points and eight rebounds, and David Bradbury added 10 points and seven rebounds for Valley (19-6).
Kevin Mocaldo had 17 points and Frank Wadsworth had 15 points for East Windsor (22-2).
VALLEY REGIONAL 57, EAST WINDSOR 48
(at East Windsor)
Valley Regional 20 9 9 19 – 57
East Windsor 10 12 7 19 -48
VALLEY REGIONAL (57)
David Bradbury Jr. 2 4-4 10, Jake Luster 5 0-0 11, Brennan Joy 0 0-0 0, Peter Barry 2 0-0 4, Christopher Jean-Pierre 6 12-13 25, Evan Smith 0 0-0 0, Nash Eppard 0 0-0 0, Hunter Linfesty 3 1-3 7. Totals: 18 17-20 57
EAST WINDSOR (48)
Frank Wadsworth 5 3-5 15, Dajon Farley 3 0-0 6, Kevin Mocaldo 4 8-8 17, Chris DeSousa 2 3-4 7, Adam Fisher 1 0-0 2, Malik Williams 0 1-2 1. Totals: 15 15-19 48
3-point goals: Valley Regional 4 (Bradbury Jr. 2, Luster 1, Jean-Pierre 1); East Windsor 3 (Wadsworth 2, Mocaldo 1); Fouled out: Valley Regional (Linfesty); East Windsor (Farley, Fisher); Records: Valley Regional 19-6; East Windsor 22-2
Notes: Jean Pierre 10 rebs, 5 asst, 4 steals; Luster 8 rebs; Brad 7 rebs, 4 assts;