Updates every minute – View full tournament
MIDDLETOWN >> Top-seeded Cromwell will be vying for their third Shoreline Conference boys basketball championship tomorrow night when the Panthers meet No. 3 East Hampton in the SLC tournament finals (7 p.m.) at Wilbur Cross High School.
Cromwell knocked out defending champion Valley Regional, 63-59, in the semifinals Tuesday at Salafia Gymnasium.
Panthers senior Josh Green led four players in double figures with 19 points. Matt Turkington had 15 points, Mike McNally added 12 points and Jake Regula chipped in 11 points for Cromwell.
Chris Jean-Pierre collected 31 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, while David Bradbury added nine points for the fourth-seeded Warriors (16-6).
In the other semifinal, No. 3 East Hampton jumped out to a 24-6 first quarter lead at No. 2 Westbrook and held on to defeat the Knights, 62-51.
Sophomore forward Cody Bernard netted a game-high 20 points, senior center Colin Parks had 13 points, and senior guard Matt Vasquenza added 11 points for the Bellringers.
The Knights (19-3) were led by Faruk Cecunjanin (15 points) and Cade Muckel (12 points).
Friday’s championship game is unchartered territory for East Hampton. Since joining the Shoreline Conference in 2006 – along with Cromwell and Portland – the Bellringers had never won a SLC tournament game until last week’s quarterfinal round win against Old Lyme.
In fact, it’s been 17 years since East Hampton captured a league championship. The Bellringers won the Charter Oak Conference crown in 1997.
Former Bellringer Parker Strong, now in his third season at the helm, has done a remarkable job getting East Hampton to the finals. Strong has a well-balanced club – six players have scored 20 or more points in a game this season – with terrific senior leadership in Matt Booth, Marvin Gorgas, Parks and Vasquenza.
East Hampton (19-3) hosted Cromwell on Jan. 28, dropping a 65-48 decision. Since then, the Bellringers have won 13 of 14.
Cromwell coach John Pinone guided the Panthers to SLC titles in 2009 and 2012, and a Class S state championship in 2009.
The Panthers (20-2), who have won 11 straight, are also well-balanced on offense with all five senior starters – Regula, McNally, Green, Turkington and DeAndre Hamblin – capable of putting 15-20 points on the board on any given night.
But for Pinone, the road to the SLC title starts on defense, where the Panthers will need to keep East Hampton’s terrific outside shooters in check.
The same can be said for East Hampton as the Panthers have been shooting the ball extremely well for the past month and a half.