BURLINGTON >> No. 1 Lewis Mills (20-4) proved doubters wrong in a 55-45 win over No. 7 St. Paul (16-8) in a Class M Boys Basketball quarterfinal game at Lewis Mills High School Monday evening.
Some viewed the contest as Berkshire League basketball vs. Naugatuck Valley League basketball with little to compare between a predominantly small-school BL and a heavily large-school NVL.
“Everybody doubts our league, but everybody here can play,” said Alexander Daigle (18 points), a 6-foot-3 forward who went 12-for-12 from the foul line in the second half. “I don’t think we should be doubted.”
“Nobody expected us to win; we had nothing to lose,” said junior Nate Cook (18 points), Daigle’s 6-foot-3 playing partner underneath and from the perimeter.
Cook sparked the Spartans with 13 first-half points, including three treys, while the Falcons couldn’t buy a basket for most of the first half, in a dismal 4-for-25 flame-out.
“That wasn’t part of our game plan,” said St. Paul coach Steve Phelps. “When we couldn’t shoot, it put more pressure on what we had to do on defense; we had to take more risks.”
“In the first half, we limited them to one shot possessions in 90 percent of the cases,” said Lewis Mills coach Todd Kozak. “I thought we were an underdog, so we preached that we had to make our shots early and make our foul shots.”
The Spartans did just that.
The first half was a thing-of-beauty for Mills fans with speed, rebounding and shooting. The second was an ugly foul fest when Mills made 20-of-27 from the line.
Neither team scored for the first three minutes. Then Cook opened up for three from the outside; Daigle swooped for a layup and Cook stuck a put-back, 7-0.
Phelps replaced his opening zone with man-to-man defense. DeJuan Rodriguez, a 6-5 junior center, went to the line for St. Paul’s first two points, 3:45 left.
The Falcons didn’t score again until mid-way through the next period.
Cook sizzled for a layup and three, 12-2, at the end of one.
St. Paul put in its full court press; the Spartans handled it with relative ease.
“We’ve been practicing against it all week because of our great scouting reports,” said Mills point guard Spencer Maloney.
Reid Morin (9 points) broke through for the Falcon’s second basket, 4:44 left in the half.
Cook hit another three from the corner, 21-6; Daigle drove for back-to-back hoops, 25-10.
A Spartan foul and a technical ignited the Falcons.
With 1:29 left in the half, Nick Vallani and Morin ripped off seven straight points, 25-17.
Dan Kryzanski turned it around for the Spartans, 28-17, with a three at the buzzer.
“The good news in the second half was we limited them to two field goals,” said Coach Phelps. “But they still got 27 points.”
Maloney and Daigle were a combined 10-for-10 from the line in the third period; Maloney, Daigle, Cook and Max Waddington combined for 13-for-14 in the fourth.
“We kept banging, but we couldn’t break through,” said Phelps, down 40-27 after three. “The better team won tonight.”
The Spartans move on to play No. 12 Weaver Thursday in the Class M semifinals.
No. 1 Lewis Mills 55, No. 7 St. Paul 45
At Lewis Mills High School
St. Paul 2 15 10 18—45
Lewis Mills 12 16 12 15—55
St. Paul (45): Tyler Jones 3-1-7; Troy MiCale 2-0-5; Jake Kawiecki 1-0-3; Nick Vallani 0-6-6; Brendan Carroll 2-0-5; Reid Morin 4-1-9; DeJuan Rodriguez 0-3-3; Austin Morin 3-0-7; Totals: 15-11-45.
Lewis Mills (55): Spencer Maloney 0-6-6; Alexander Daigle 3-12-18; Danny Kryzanski 2-0-5; Nate Cook 7-1-18; Max Wadington 0-4-4; Justin Pease 0-0-0; Danny Wilcox 0-4-4; Ben Lewis 0-0-0; Totals: 12-24-55.
3-point goals: SP—MiCale; Kawiecki; Carroll; Morin. LM—Kryzanski; Cook 3.
Records: St. Paul 17-6; Lewis Mills 19-6.