UNCASVILLE >> Height has rarely been an issue for the Bloomfield boys basketball team throughout the season and for the outgoing senior class that has just one starter listed over 6-feet tall, but Brookfield’s numerous big men posed an issue on the largest stage.
The 11th-seeded Bobcats blocked six shots, pulled down 13 more rebounds including the biggest offense rebound of Lucas Joshi’s life.
The 6-foot-1 senior found the ball in his hands with under five seconds left after a missed shot with the scored tied 60-60. He put it right back up for the would-be game-winning basket at Mohegan Sun Arena in the Class M state championship game.
A Bloomfield miscue, a Brookfield free throw and a missed three-quarter court heave sent the Bobcats into a frenzy as they defeated the eighth-seeded Warhawks 63-60 to win their first ever boys basketball state title.
“It feels amazing,” Joshi said. “I know everyone is going to remember this year. I can’t wait to be remembered as a Brookfield legend, everyone on this team is legends.”
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) March 19, 2017
Bloomfield, who trailed by as many as 10 with 6:18 left in the second quarter, kept Brookfield within reach the entire game by attacking the basket despite the obvious height disadvantage.
And it worked.
Especially in the second half when the Warhawks inched closer and closer eventually tying the game the final time with 19 seconds left on two free throws by Josh Moore-Henry.
“We’re small,” Bloomfield coach Gary Barcher said. “So we’re going to get our shot blocked a bunch, but that’s what we want to do, attack.”
Brookfield senior Austin DaSilva brought the ball up the floor, as he had most of the game, passed to Joshi across mid-court who then got the ball down low to Christian Saltarelli. His shot went up and off the rim, but the ball got batted right into the hands of Joshi on the right side of the basket.
“I saw endless fight from Lucas,” DaSilva said. “All the time we spent in the gym has finally paid off.”
Joshi went right up with it over the top of Bloomfield’s lone big man Russell Thompson-Bishop to give Brookfield what they thought was the win. But Bloomfield had called a timeout for one last chance.
“It went in and I didn’t know what to do,” Joshi said. “I ran back to play defense and then I saw the time winding down, I thought the game was over. They called timeout, everyone settled down and we pulled through with the win.”
With 3.9 seconds left, Dexter Lawson in-bounded the ball to Chris Rose along the sideline at mid-court, but in trying to keep his balance was called for a travel.
The Warhawks last ditch effort was a foul of Saltarelli who made one of two free throws. On the final play, Jordan Pruitt took the in-bounds pass and launched a Hail Mary that fell short.
The Bobcats nervous energy turned into jubilation as they celebrated on the Connecticut Sun logo making their first ever trip to the state finals a historic one, especially after not making it past the second round of the state tournament the last two years and not qualifying in 2014.
“We’ve matured over the past four years,” DaSilva said. “Over all the pain of losing. We didn’t want to feel that anymore — left on a win and that’s what we wanted.”
For Barcher it was a bittersweet ending to a great career.
At the beginning of the season he made it clear to the Bloomfield administration that the 2016-17 season would be his last. He went through a tumultuous off-season where his contact was not renewed and was then placed on probation by the athletic department, much to his surprise. Once he was finally reinstated he coached the final season with a group of seniors he will never forget.
“I said I’m going out with the seniors, because these are some of the best kids I ever coached,” Barcher said.
And it was those seniors who did not quit even when attacking the basket surrounded by five guys taller than them or when they trailed by eight with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a fast, aggressive style,” Barcher said. “But unyielding toughness. The ankle [injury that Thompson-Bishop played through] isn’t going to stop them. The refs aren’t going to stop them. Five misses in a row isn’t going to stop them. They’re going to keep coming and it brings tears to my eyes how tough they are.”
Barcher added: “Warhawks is a synonym we use for Warrior. These kids just battle, they love to compete. It’s one of my favorite teams.”
Bloomfield put up 68 shots, but made 20 which was a product of the Bobcats game plan.
“Contest every shot,” DaSilva said. “They earn every shot they take. If they made a shot it’s because it was a good shot, not because we gave it to them.”
But Bloomfield forced 17 turnovers, and one extra basket would have done it.
“We didn’t capitalize on ones we got in the first half,” Barcher said. “We got all the looks we wanted. We got to the paint almost at will, but they made some blocks, they were physical. We got a lot of fouls called, but missed a bunch of free throws.”
Brookfield 63, Bloomfield 60
Brookfield: 18 16 12 17 — 63
Bloomfield: 14 12 13 21 — 60
(at Mohegan Sun Arena)
Brookfield (63) — Lucas Joshi 4 0-1 9, Cameron Gleichauf 2 2-2 7, Christian Saltarelli 2 1-2 6, Austin DaSilva 6 6-6 19, David Albanese 6 2-2 14, Cooper Mahoney 0 0-0 0, Liam V Carroll 3 2-2 8, Joseph Brown 0 0-0 0, Trevor Lewis 0 0-0 0 — Total 23 13-15 63.
Bloomfield (60) — Chris Rose 4 1-2 11, Russell Thompson-Bishop 1 5-8 7, Dexter Lawson 6 0-2 12, Jordan Pruitt 3 4-6 11, Josh Moore-Henry 5 4-5 14, Phillip Underwood 1 2-4 5, Clifton Percy-Campbell 0 0-0 0 — Total 20 16-27 60.
3-point goals: Brookfield 4 (Joshi, Gleichauf, Saltarelli, DaSilva); Bloomfield 4 (Rose 2, Pruitt, Underwood)
Fouled out: Brookfield — Albanese; Bloomfield — none.
Team records: Brookfield 19-7; Bloomfield 20-7.