NEW HAVEN >> Bunnell coach Pat Yerina just wanted to make sure his Bulldogs were still within striking distance of Wilbur Cross heading into the fourth quarter on Wednesday night.
The Governors led 46-42 after three and the game stayed close until the Bulldogs were able to hold Cross without a field goal for over 3 minutes to upset the eighth-ranked and eighth-seeded Governors 62-53 at Cross in a Class L second-round game.
“You can just look at the (state championship) banners up there,” Yerina said. “We know it’s a tough place to come in and play. We looked at who they lost to and they didn’t lose to too many guys. We knew we had to put a great effort in and just finish. I told our guys, ‘Just make sure we get to the fourth quarter.’”
In a battle of Class L semifinalists from a year ago, Bunnell (20-5) switched from man-to-man to zone and held the Governors (17-7) to just two baskets and seven total points in the fourth quarter. The defensive switch was done in part to protect point guard Ryan Pittman, who had four fouls.
Issac Vann, who finished with a game-high 27 points, outscored Cross in the fourth quarter by himself.
“We don’t work on (zone) a lot, but we did a nice job,” Yerina said. “They didn’t get any second shots the last four minutes.”
Said Cross coach Kevin Walton: “The game was lost in the beginning. The plan was to go inside and we didn’t capitalize. This is nothing new; the same things that have plagued us all season long. Issac Vann is too good of a player to let them stick around and he made plays.”
A Chan Williams-Bey (23 points) 3-pointer to tie the game at 52 with 3:12 remaining was Cross’ final field goal. The Bulldogs didn’t connect from the field after that either, but they made 10 of 14 free throws.
“This was definitely big for the program,” Vann said. “They are a tough team and this is a tough place to win.”
Cross shot 7 of 15 from the line for the game.
“I don’t care what level of basketball you play in, if you don’t hit free throws, if you don’t rebound and you turn the ball over, you are not going to win,” Walton said. “Bunnell just made plays and deserved to win the game.”
Bunnell, a No. 9 seed, will host No. 16 Maloney in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Spartans knocked off top-seeded Capital Prep on Wednesday.
Pittman, who had 16 points, picked up his fourth foul with 3:36 to go in the third quarter and came out of the game. Cross immediately scored five quick points.
With the Governors up 46-40, Williams-Bey held the ball for over a minute while the Bulldogs sat in a zone.
“We were up and I was confident we could get a good play out of it,” Walton said. “We are trying to get the last shot. If we get the last shot, we can go up (eight), possibly (nine). The play we had in worked a few minutes before.”
Except this time Williams-Bey turned the ball over and Vann scored seconds later to make it 46-42 heading into the fourth.
“I liked that, because my guys got a rest,” Yerina said.
Josh Fleming finished with 20 points in his final game for the Governors.
BUNNELL 62, WILBUR CROSS 53
(at New Haven)
Bunnell 17 14 11 20 – 62
Wilbur Cross 16 13 17 7 – 53
Ryan Pittman 6 3-5 16, Kendell Streeter 1 2-2 4, Justin Townsend 1 4-5 7, Aaron Woods 2 0-0 4, Issac Vann 9 8-9 27, Donte Peeler 1 2-2 4, Aaron Samuel 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 19-23 62
WILBUR CROSS (53)
Anthony Miller 0 1-2 1, Joshua Fleming 8 1-2 20, Chan Williams-Bey 10 2-6 23, Darryl Stokes 0 0-3 0, Robert Durant 1 2-2 4, Jaylin Fuller 0 0-0 0, Jamir Esdaile 0 0-0 0, Jaelin Robinson 2 1-5 5. Totals: 21 7-20 53
3-point goals: Bunnell 3 (Pittman 1, Townsend 1, Vann 1); Wilbur Cross 4 ( Fleming 3, Williams-Bey 1); Fouled out: Wilbur Cross (Williams-Bey, Fuller.); Records: Bunnell 20-5; Wilbur Cross 17-7