DANBURY — Thanks to Friday night’s quarterfinal victory over Stratford, the Immaculate High School boys basketball team has advanced at least to the South-West Conference semifinals for five consecutive years.
While that alone is an impressive accomplishment, the Mustangs — who last won the conference title in 2012 and last reached the championship game in 2016 — are hungry for more.
If Friday’s performance is any indication, the Mustangs could be primed for a deep playoff run.
Ronan Doherty scored 18 points to lead second-seeded Immaculate to a 70-58 victory over seventh-seeded Stratford in the quarterfinals.
The Mustangs (17-4) are set to host third-seeded Kolbe Cathedral in the semifinals Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Bob Plumb Gymnasium. The winner of that game will advance to the final and face either fifth-seeded Brookfield or top-seeded Notre Dame of Fairfield.
“Every year, we’ve gotten to this point and made it to the semifinals,” said Doherty, who had scored his 1,000th career point against Barlow on Tuesday. “I’m hoping this year we can make a run at it and get the win.”
Stratford, meanwhile, proved to be quite a formidable opponent for a seventh seed. The Red Devils (11-10) will look to regroup for the Division III state tournament, the brackets for which are scheduled to be released on Wednesdsay.
“We’ve got a week now before the tournament,” Stratford coach Tim Swaller said. “We’ll regoup and get things reorganized. We just have to keep working. I thought tonight we were one or two plays away from closing that gap.”
Jack Woods scored 15 points, Quinn Guth added 14 points and Mike Basile scored 11 for Immaculate.
Mike August led Stratford with 18 points, while Sean Carroll scored 15 and John Bike scored 10.
Stratford had trimmed its nine-point halftime deficit to four late in the third quarter when Basile gave Immaculate a much-needed boost. He first hit a long two-point jumper, then sank a layup in transition following a steal by Woods to make it an eight-point game with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter.
A bucket by Carroll cut the Mustang lead to six, but Doherty sank a dagger with four seconds remaining in the form of a 3-pointer from the corner, right in front of the Immaculate High student section, which roared with appreciation.
That put Immaculate ahead by nine headed to the fourth quarter, and a 7-0 Mustang run to start the final stanza — which featured a 3-pointer by Guth following a defensive rebound by Doherty, sandwiched between two layups by Woods — extended the lead to 16.
“Our game plan was to just do what we do best: play as a team and focus on the defensive end,” Doherty said. “A lot of our offense is generated from our defense, so if we work hard on defense, the offense will come. And we work the ball together, and pick each other up when we’re down.”
Immaculate wasn’t quite out of the woods just yet, however, as Stratford cut the lead back down to nine inside of three minutes to go. The Devils were forced to foul, and the Mustangs cashed in at the foul line, shooting an immaculate 8-for-8, including a 6-for-6 performance by Doherty — in the final two minutes.
For what it’s worth, Immaculate defeated Kolbe Cathedral by 33 points on Feb. 13. Woods poured in 28 points in that one. Despite their recent success, the Mustangs are gearing up for a tight battle.
“It’s going to be a completely different Kolbe team from the first time we saw them, I can guarantee you that,” Immaculate coach Nelson Mingachos said. “It’s going to be a battle. We’re excited. We can’t wait to get back to practice tomorrow.”
IMMACULATE 70, STRATFORD 58
Jack Ryan 4 1-2 9; Mike August 4 9-9 18; Joe August 1 0-0 3; Sean Carroll 6 2-2 15; John Bike 4 0-0 10; Zack Fedak 0 0-0 0; Aaron Christy 0 0-0 0; Jaahdel Cyril 0 0-0 0; Antonio Sciarappa 0 0-0 0; Jamie Logan 1 0-0 3; Preston Williams 0 0-0 0; Mike D’Aloia 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 12-13 50.
Isaiah Payton 3 1-2 8; Mike Basile 5 0-0 11; Jack Woods 6 2-2 15; Quinn Guth 5 1-2 14; Ronan Doherty 4 8-8 18; Joey Rios 0 0-0 0; Sean Guiry 2 0-0 4; Jack Deakin 0 0-0 0; C.J. Johnson 0 0-0 0; Pat Ianetta 0 0-0 0; Chris Beal 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 12-14 70.
STRATFORD16 10 17 15 — 58
IMMACULATE24 11 17 18 — 70
3-pointers: S—Bike 2, M. August, J. August, Carroll, Logan; I—Guth 3, Doherty 2, Payton, Basile, Woods.