NEW HAVEN >> It was going to take a Herculean effort for someone in the Shoreline Conference boys basketball tournament to derail top-seeded Cromwell.
Hyde gave it the old college try in the quarterfinals; defending champion Valley Regional came up short in the semifinals; and for one half in Friday’s SLC championship, East Hampton rose up and gave the Panthers all they could handle.
In the second half, Cromwell showed that it’s going take more than a few superheroes to slow them down.
Senior forward Josh Green scored 23 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, senior Matt Turkington drained four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points, and senior Jake Regula added 15 points as Cromwell (21-2) captured its second SLC title in three years, and third overall, with a 75-56 victory over the Bellringers at Wilbur Cross High School.
“It’s a tribute to all the hard work these kids did over the year and the offseason,” said John Pinone, the SLC Coach of the Year who also guided the Panthers to Shoreline Conference titles in 2009 and 2012. “I always say coaches don’t win games, players do. All the accolades go to them. I push them but at the end of the day they realize this is what it’s all about when you push them hard enough.”
Senior center Colin Parks and senior guard Marvin Gorgas each had 16 points, senior Matt Vasquenza scored 10 points and junior Jake Vickery had eight points for the Bellringers (19-4).
“It was nice to be here,” said East Hampton coach Parker Strong. “We know who we are. We had a great year. We’ve had the second most regular season wins in school history, first time winning a Shoreline tourney game and getting to a championship game. I’m incredibly proud of my kids.”
A fast-paced, see-saw first half saw the Bellringers enjoy an 18-17 lead after one quarter. The teams traded baskets in the second but a pair of 3-pointers from Turkington gave Cromwell a 31-30 halftime lead.
“I told the kids (at halftime), championships aren’t easy to win,” said Pinone. “We knew they were going to give us their best shot. In the second half, we brought more defensive intensity and got into the passing lanes a little better. We got some turnovers and some easy baskets.”
After Bellriingers senior Matt Booth buried a 3-pointer to tie it at 35 early in the third quarter, Panthers guard DeAndre Hamblin (11 points) sank a corner trey and then added a fastbreak layup, off a feed from Regula, and Cromwell was off and running.
A pair of putbacks from Green highlighted a 19-6 run, which was capped by Mike McNally’s conventional 3-point play at the end of the third quarter, and the Panthers led 54-41.
East Hampton got within 59-49 on a driving layup from Gorgas. But Regula and Green drove in for a pair of layups, Regula added a pair of free throws and McNally fed Turkington for a layup and a 67-49 lead with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter.
“The downfall was our rebounding,” said Strong. “As the game wore on they just kept getting second and third chances and that was really the difference. They’re a great team.”
“It feels amazing,” said Green. “The coach said don’t worry at halftime. He kept our confidence up and in the second half we started taking the ball to the basket hard and finishing. And defense wins games.”
CROMWELL 75, EAST HAMPTON 56
(at New Haven)
East Hampton 18 12 11 15 – 56
Cromwell 17 14 23 21 – 75
EAST HAMPTON (56)
Colin Parks 7 2-2 16, Matt Booth 1 0-0 3, Marvin Gorgas 7 0-1 16, Jake Vickery 3 1-2 8, Cody Bernard 1 0-0 3, Matt Vasquenza 4 2-2 10. Totals: 23 5-7 56
Matt Turkington 6 0-0 16, Mike McNally 1 3-6 5, Josh Green 9 8-10 26, DeAndre Hamblin 4 1-2 11, Shant Darajkien 0 0-2 0, Logan Lessard 1 0-1 2, Jake Regula 5 3-3 15. Totals: 26 15-24 75
3-point goals: East Hampton 5 (Booth 1, Gorgas 2, Vickery 1, Bernard 1); Cromwell 8 (Turkington 4, Hamblin 2, Regula 2); Fouled out: East Hampton (Bernard); Records: East Hampton 19-4; Cromwell 21-2
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