NEW HAVEN >> There were was a moment, albeit briefly, when the dreams of Bridgeport Central’s basketball players looked as if they really could slip away.
Ledyard’s zone defense was working, the Colonels’ offense was finally clicking and big man Darnay Gray was rumbling down the court to make what was once a 10-possession game into one possession early in the fourth quarter.
But Gray’s shot wouldn’t fall and Central turned on the jets to propel to the state championship game for the first time in four years.
Sha’quan Bretoux scored 24 points, including seven clutch points in the fourth quarter, as Bridgeport Central pulled away to defeat Ledyard 67-55 in the Class LL boys basketball semifinals at Floyd Little Athletic Center Wednesday night.
“I love him,” Central senior guard Tyler Ancrum said. “He’s a main factor in the fourth quarter. Once he’s on fire he doesn’t stop. He just makes his shots.”
Central advances to face Fairfield Prep, a 59-41 winner over Greenwich, in a mega-Class LL state championship game between Connecticut’s No. 1 and No 2-ranked teams Saturday, 8:15 p.m. at Mohegan Sun.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was in seventh grade,” said Ancrum, who added 18 points and was a terror defensively as Central bolted out to a 21-point lead in the second quarter. “I’ve been coming to Central high school games since I was a kid. I’ve always dreamed about making it to the big stage. I knew we could do it.”
Despite the huge deficit, Ledyard had its chances to snatch that dream away. After nearly getting run out of the gym in the first half, it switched to a 1-3-1 zone and began to chip away as Central struggled to get good looks.
Ledyard cut Central’s lead to 37-21 at halftime and used 11-0 run between the third and fourth quarters to pull Ledyard within 47-42 with 7:18 remaining.
“Maybe I should have gone to it a little earlier,” said Ledyard coach Dave Cornish, whose team voluntarily moved to Class LL this year and finished 24-5, including a 3-0 record in the tournament. “When we started to think about it we were down 13. When we finally did go to it, that packed it and forced them to shoot from the outside.
“We had chances, even though we were down 21. I told the kids, keep fighting. And we were right there.”
Off a Central turnover, the 6-foot-3, 200-something-pound Gray (17 points) took a pass and raced down the floor. His layup fell off the rim. “That was big,” Gray said. “I should have made it. It was big. We were down, trying to get buckets and I just didn’t finish it.”
Shortly afterward, Ledyard’s DeAnte Bruton (13 points) also missed a layup.
From there, it was all Bretoux. The senior scored seven of Central’s next nine points — including a wide-open 3-pointer — to push the lead back to 12.
“Our defense was lapsing a bit because we were upset with our offense,” Central coach Barry McLeod said. “Once we turned it up again defensively, we got two quick steals, two quick lay-ups and it goes back to nine again and gave us some breathing room.
“But the deficit for them was a big one to come back from. Those two missed layups really hurt them a lot.”
Now, Central can focus on its first state championship appearance since winning it all in 2010. To win what would be the school’s fifth state championship, it’ll have to do what no one has done all season: Beat Fairfield Prep.
“It’s been them all year long,” McLeod said. “They’re the No. 1 team. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Who will win the Class L girls volleyball soccer championship?
No. 1 Woodstock Academy (21-0)
No. 2 Joel Barlow (21-1)
Total Response: 85 Votes
LEDYARD 10 11 17 17 — 55
CENTRAL 18 19 10 20 — 67
at Floyd Little Athletic Center
Darnay Gray 6 5-5 17; Dominique Benson 3 0-0 6; Phyllip Thomas 7 3-3 17; DeAnte Bruton 4 5-8 13; Khary Childs 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 13-16 55
Dondre Daniels 1 0-0 2; Marcus Blackwell 4 0-0 8; Orhan Cecunjamin 3 0-0 6; Sha’Quan Bretoux 8 6-6 24; Tyler Ancrum 6 4-7 18; Ricky Grant 3 0-0 6; Jahdeh Somerville 1 0-0 3. Totals: 26 10-13 67
3-pointers: Central: 5 (Bretoux 2, Ancrum 2, Somerville). Fouled out: Ledyard: (Gray) Records: Ledyard 21-5, Central 26-1