NEW BRITAIN >> The Career boys basketball team missed enough free throws down the stretch in regulation to allow Bristol Central a chance to send Tuesday’s game into overtime. The Rams did.
Bristol Central also had a chance to hit another tying 3-point shot to send Tuesday’s Class L state semifinal into a second overtime.
This time, the Rams never got a shot off. Justice Phifer made a steal at the top of the key and got the ball to teammate Tyreek Perkins. The scoreboard clock read 0.4 seconds left.
Career was heading back to another Class L state final.
Perkins hit two more free throws to seal the 66-61 win for the No. 2 seeded Panthers at New Britain High.
“Words can’t explain how I feel right now,” said Perkins, who was 6 of 6 from the line in overtime. “We work so hard in the off-season that we finally got where we wanted to be.”
It is the third trip to the state finals for Career in the last four years. The Panthers won their first state championship two years ago. No. 4 seed Windsor stands in the way of title No. 2 this weekend at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
“We feel fortunate to be able to compete against Windsor. We are going to do what we do, that’s who we are,” Career coach Larry Kelley said.
Phifer also came through with 17 points, including the first two points for sixth-ranked Career (22-4) in overtime.
Joe DeFilippi made the three-pointer that bounced around and in for the Rams (20-5) to send the game into overtime.
But neither he nor the rest of the Rams could get open on the perimeter on their last possession. Then Phifer came up with the steal.
“We were running the elevator screen up top with two bigs to close down and try to give Joey a look,” Bristol Central coach Tim Barrette said. “I knew they might cheat it, so went to another ball screen, they doubled him off it. The roll was open, but it was just a tough play at the end.”
Said Kelley: “We were guarding all threes. We didn’t worry about fouling off the dribble, as long as it was on a two.”
It didn’t help the Rams’ cause when their top scorer, Manny Severino (18 points) fouled out on a tough offensive charge call drawn by Jordan Lomax with 1:07 left in overtime and Career ahead 60-59. On the play, forward Tykeam Hamel hurt his knee and needed help coming off the floor.
Career was able to dribble away more than 30 seconds off the clock before Perkins (14 points) was fouled with 35.6 seconds left. He made the two free throws to put the Panthers up three. DeFilippi hit two from the line before Perkins made two more, setting up Career’s final defensive stand.
“This was the best season at Bristol Central in 25 years,” Barrette said. “These guys should be proud. Overall to finish 20-5, you can’t ask for much better record than that.”
Bristol Central took a 45-44 lead at the end of the third quarter, its first since it was 4-2. Neither team had more than a four-point lead in the fourth before DeFilippi’s three sent the game into overtime.
Matt Hamilton added 13 points for Career.
CAREER 66, BRISTOL CENTRAL 61
(at New Britain)
Bristol Central 10 15 20 11 5 – 61
Career 19 14 11 12 10 – 66
BRISTOL CENTRAL (61)
Leslie Johnson 3 0-0 7, Jason Severino 3 8-10 16, Manny Severino 7 2-8 18, Jacob Collins 5 2-3 12, Kyle Pileski 1 0-0 2, Tyleam Hamel 1 0-0 2, Landin Rutledge 2 0-3 4. Totals: 22 12-24 61
Tyreek Perkins 2 10-10 14, Tyrell Eaddy 1 4-7 6, Amos Ford 3 0-6 6, Matt Hamilton 4 4-6 13, Justin Campbell 1 1-2 3, Jordan Lomax 2 2-7 7, Justice Phifer 8 1-2 17. Totals: 21 22-40 66
3-point goals: Bristol Central 5 (Johnson 1, Severino 2, Severino 2); Career 2 (Hamilton 1, Lomax 1); Fouled out: Bristol Central (Rutledge, M. Severino); Career (Eaddy); Records: Bristol Central 20-5; Career 22-4