GUILFORD — It was a group of seniors from Guilford who have played together for years and together accomplished things the program hadn’t done in nearly two decades.
But most runs come to an end at some point and Guilford’s came to a crashing conclusion Saturday night in the Division III state quarterfinals. No. 9 seed Avon led from start to finish, holding off the top-seeded Indians 56-51 at Guilford High School.
“They’re hurt, I’m hurt, and the community and fans are hurt too,” Guilford coach Jeff DeMaio said. “This was a special group that had an opportunity to win the whole thing. I firmly believe we had a chance to win it all in Division III and that’s the part that hurts.”
And in a way, it was like looking in the mirror for the Indians: a team in Avon that starts five seniors and is playing pretty well at the most opportune time of the season.
“The kids are having too much fun and we have gone on a nice little run,” Avon coach Kris Pedra said. “We play in a tough conference that got us ready for this. The five seniors played their hearts out. It’s fun to be a part of this.”
Avon (15-9) will now play a fellow Central Connecticut Conference school, No. 5 Enfield, a winner over East Lyme, in Tuesday’s semifinals at a site and time to be determined.
Pedra said the primary focus on defense was to try and contain Noah Rubino and Sam Dombroski. They had 14 and 12 points, respectively, in their final games for the Indians.
“Our goal was to take away their two bigs, Rubino and Dombroski,” Pedra said. “Dombroski especially because he likes to catch the ball in the paint. Rubino is an all-around good player so we had to try and collapse on him.
The Indians (21-3) also had no answer for Avon guard Jordan Williams, who led all scorers with 20 points.
But Guilford also couldn’t make shots from the floor until the fourth quarter when it cut a 10-point deficit down to two, 47-45, with 2:18 left. Then Williams hit 4 of 4 from the free-throw line and Guilford’s last-ditch comeback attempt was over.
“In this tournament format, if you don’t play well enough against a good team, this is what happens” DeMaio said. “We just didn’t play well enough and my guys would tell you that. They (Avon) don’t turn the ball over, make fouls shots and have a really good point guard (Williams).”
Avon got off to a hot start, shooting 8 of 12 from the floor in the opening quarter, building leads of 8-1 and 17-6 before leading by 10 (19-9) after the opening 8 minutes of action.
“We gave up 19 first-quarter points. To give up 19 at home when we are only averaging giving up 48 a game, credit Avon for making shots,” DeMaio said.
The Falcons didn’t keep up the hot shooting, but Guilford couldn’t make them pay, either.
Sam Dombroski grabbed eight rebounds in the opening half. On his last one, he traveled with 2 seconds left. Then Avon, inbounding underneath its own basket, scored right before the buzzer sounded on a lob to Charlie Reiss to make it 29-19 at halftime. The Indians shot 6 of 22 from the floor in the half.
The third quarter went much like the first two. Avon’s smallest lead in the quarter was eight and led by the same margin as it did at halftime.
Avon 56, Guilford 51
AVON<WL>19 10 13 14—56
GUILFORD<WL>9 10 13 19—51
Jack Hall 2 0-0 5, Brett Muni 3 1-2 8, Charlie Reiss 4 2-2 10, Jordan Wiliams 7 4-4 20, Rikey Welter1 2-4 5, Conner Harris 4 0-0 8.
Noah Rubino 6 2-5 14, Sam Dombroski 4 2-4 10, Josh Krause 3 4-5 10, Matt Donlan 3 1-3 9, Ian Slattery 2 0-0 4, Colin Kellaher 0 4-4 4. Totals 18 13-21 51.