DANBURY — The smallest school in Division II with one of the smaller rotations around, the Immaculate boys basketball team, has not allowed its lack of numbers to affect its performance on the court.
It only takes a fab five to produce results, and the starting lineup of Isaiah Payton, Mike Basile, Jack Woods, Quinn Guth and Ronan Doherty have shouldered the majority of the minutes while leading the Mustangs to another state final.
The Mustangs — one of three SWC teams looking to claim a title this weekend — will square off against No. 9 Amity Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena for the Division II championship. And they got here with incredible balance.
“It’s definitely comfortable knowing that any guy can get hot at any point,” said Woods, a junior. “If someone is not shooting or passing well, or playing good defense, any of the other four guys has the capability to pick it up. It’s comfortable knowing you have help and it’s an advantage.”
All five starters have similar skill sets: the ability to drive, shoot and pass can make the Mustangs a nightmare to defend.
“I love it, there’s not a team that can come in and try to take away one of my players,” added coach Nelson Mingachos. “They’re all point guards, all shooters and great defenders. If you try to take away (Payton), Ronan is going to hurt you from the outside, or Quinn, or Woods or (Basile).”
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Immaculate has encountered several talented players during its conference and state playoff runs and will do so once more against the Spartans. Tyler Thomas is a do-it-all wrecking crew for Amity; he scored 18 points to save the season against Newtown in the semifinals.
“He’s an outstanding player with great vision on the court,” Mingachos said of Thomas. “He can shoot, dribble and makes his teammates better. We’ve got a big test ahead of us, it’s going to be a battle like the last three games were.”
Height is rarely on the side of the Mustangs, but that has yet to stop them. The grit shown on the defensive end has more than offset not having a starter taller than 5-foot-11.
The Mustangs’ (21-5) resume has grown stronger as the season progresses: two of their five losses came against a team no one has yet to solve (ND-Fairfield), with a third coming against FCIAC champion Danbury. Immaculate toppled Fairfield Warde, New Britain and Glastonbury to reach the final while Amity won four games — including a three-point nail-biter against Newtown.
Immaculate — which reached the SWC final — captured Class S titles in 2012 and 2016. A step up in class has yet to derail it in 2018.
“It’s a good opportunity and it’s cool to see a lot of new teams we haven’t seen before,” Woods said. “Its always cool to say that you beat a team with a freshman class is bigger than your whole school. It’s definitely rewarding knowing you beat a school that’s bigger and that can give you the underdog-type feel in a game.”
Several of the Mustangs played in the 2016 final; the experience certainly isn’t new to Mingachos, who has won several state championships between girls soccer and boys basketball.
“I enjoy there and love being there, that’s why we coach,” Mingachos said. “I always say after I win one I can’t wait until the next one. I hope we get it and I’ll start looking forward to the next one.”