SOUTHINGTON >> Coginchaug assistant boys basketball coach John Forline played on the Blue Devils 1974 Class S state championship team. Led by legendary coach Wally Camp, Coginchaug upset St. Thomas Aquinas, 49-48, to win the Durham school’s first and only state crown.
The No. 11 Blue Devils (17-8) meet top-seeded Immaculate (24-3) for the CIAC Class S title on Saturday night at The Mohegan Sun Arena. It’s been a Cinderella-like tournament run for the Blue Devils and Forline sees a lot of similarities between now and 42 years ago.
“These guys are a lot like the guys I played with in ‘74,” Forline said. “I can honestly say that this is a team that over that span of time is the closest fit to the kinds of things that Wally talked about. He always emphasized defense, rebounding and the hustle aspects of the game and those are the things that have turned a few of these games. I just hope the magic continues.”
Camp will receive a Merit Award from the CIAC tournament committee on Saturday morning. If you believe in a little karma, then the Blue Devils are your team.
Led by senior captains Cam Powers, Jake Sapia, Kyle Wyskiel,and Kyle Judson, the Blue Devils reached the finals with stirring victories over Litchfield, Old Lyme, Classical Magnet and East Windsor. Junior forwards Jack Murphy and Griffin Murphy, and sophomore forward Hunter Jameson have also helped fuel Coginchaug’s terrific postseason.
“They got it in their heads now that they don’t want any regrets,” said Coginchaug coach Todd Salva, who also played for Camp and is now in his 25th season. “They’re all getting out of that comfort zone that some players tend to stay in and they’re just leaving it out there. We’re really finding out how good we really can be and I think that’s why we’re having success right now.”
The Blue Devils have certainly regrouped since losing to Westbrook in the Shoreline Conference quarterfinals.
“We expected to go farther in the Shoreline so we had that week to get ready for the state tournament,” Powers said. “I don’t know what it was but we came together that week and got more hungry.”
Immaculate head coach Nelson Mingachos is no stranger to tournament success. The Mustangs won the Class S title in 2012. Mingachos has also guided the Danbury school’s girls soccer team to 10 state championship crowns.
“The boys told me this year you didn’t win a state championship with the girls so we’re going to get you one for basketball,” Mingachos said. “I said, ‘That’s fine with me. I’ll take it.’ We were here four years ago and I never knew if I was going to get back again.”
After losing to Class M finalist Notre Dame-Fairfield in the South West Conference championship game, the No. 1 Mustangs have steamrolled through the tournament, posting double-digit wins over Hyde, Somers, Westbrook, and Holy Cross-Waterbury.
“Our starting five is as good as any,” Mingachos said. “Our kids we’ll be ready for the game and we’re exited to get there. Our team is blue-collar. We’re going to do the little things. We’re going to dive on the floor for balls, we’re going to rebound and execute. We’re very similar to Coginchaug. We’re expecting a tough battle with them.”
The Mustangs and Blue Devils will tip-off at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday night.
“Immaculate’s athletic and they’re quick and they have some skilled players,” Salva said. “But we’ve played four pretty good teams to get where we are. We’re playing as well as we can play right now. We’ve been playing like junk yard dogs on defense.”
If you’re looking for more karma, the Blue Devils rallied from a 17 point deficit and defeated Immaculate en route to the 1974 title.
“I can’t think of a more deserving group of guys than this year’s team,” Forline added. “If ever there was a team I would love to have up on a banner to go along with the ‘74 team, it would be these guys.”