Amistad’s routine between the regular season and postseason has altered very little, if at all, during Ryan Ott’s tenure as boys basketball head coach.
First it’s rest, then practice, then some more practice as the Wolves try to make a return performance to a state championship final.
“We take a few days off to rest mentally and physically, then get back in the gym,” Ott said. “We continue to learn. We don’t (schedule) scrimmages. We focus on being a great practice team. If you focus on being a great practice team, that should translate to games.”
Amistad came out of virtually nowhere last year as the No. 9 seed in Division III to reach its first state final in only its 10th season as a varsity boys basketball program. The Wolves had not previously gotten out of the second round.
But for those Wolves, even now, that wasn’t a surprise to them.
“I said this last year to everyone I talked to. We expected to do what we did,” Ott said. “None of us were surprised. Our coaches and players knew. We were building toward that for years.”
The reason Amistad has so much time in between its regular-season finale on Saturday, a 68-61 loss to Weaver, and its first-round tournament game on March 10 is because the Wolves are an independent program. They have been since the start.
So Ott has steadily beefed up the team’s schedule each year. This year’s slate had plenty of teams with state tournament pedigree: Kolbe Cathedral, Weaver, Waterford, New London, Cromwell, Career and Valley Regional among others.
“We schedule teams that have won state championships, teams that play in state finals and team known to be state contenders,” Ott said. “It’s a tough, demanding schedule to put us in position to be ready for postseason
The Wolves started 1-3 — “almost 1-4,” Ott said — then won nine of their next 10, the only loss by one at home to Old Lyme, currently the state’s 10th ranked team.
Amistad finished 13-7 and will be seeded 12th in Division II and gets Waterford, the defending champion, at home on March 10. Amistad won at Waterford 66-63 on Jan. 25.
Things were looking bleak 13 games into Seymour’s season. The Wildcats had just three victories.
All told, head coach Joe Carrafiello said he had his full starting rotation for two games. Whether it was injuries or the flu that struck the team — Carrafiello almost missed his first game in 17 season because of the flu — the Wildcats were able to overcome all of it.
Seymour won five of its last seven, including last Thursday’s finale, at East Haven, in order to qualify for postseason play.
“Last night was one of the most gratifying and special days I’ve had in my 17 seasons as varsity coach,” Carrafiello said. “This group never quit. They believed what we were saying to them and really just dealt with everything that was thrown at them.”
Seymour (8-12) didn’t win a road game until Feb. 21. The Wildcats beat East Haven 74-51 with its best player, only scoring nine points.
Duon Perkins, who set the single-game scoring record with 48 points and is averaging 25.1 per game, was mired in foul trouble. A decisive third quarter — Seymour outscored East Haven 18-5 — gave the Wildcats some breathing room.
Kyle Harmeling and Joe Orlando combined for 37 points.
Seymour is taking a different approach than Amistad. Seymour has 10 days off in between games. Carrafiello said he was going to set up a scrimmage in addition to practices.
Seymour drew the No. 26 seed in the Division III tournament and will travel to Trumbull to play St. Joseph out of the FCIAC.
“They have good team speed, as well, and really try to put pressure on your guards,” Carrafiello said. “Practice will have to be very competitive and we will put to use some drills that are high energy drills because St. Joe’s definitely plays with a lot of energy.