BURLINGTON >> Ugly wins still count.
“We survived,” said Lewis Mills coach Todd Kozak.
His No. 1 seed Spartans (19-4) withstood No. 17 Suffield’s slow-down strategy and a late-game full court press for a 37-27 win that carries Mills to Monday’s Class M Quarterfinal date with No. 8 seed St. Paul just as surely as a classic would.
Still, let’s give this one its due: It was an ugly classic.
What else to call a game between two talented teams whose first quarter ended 6-4, Mills?
“We’ve seen them five times,” said Kozak. “Their game plan is to get an early lead and hold the ball.”
The strategy seemed to work for half of the first period.
Mills had a marked size advantage, but Suffield’s ball movement was superb — unless the Wildcats were holding it on the perimeter.
In the first four minutes, the plan brought an impatience foul for Mills and the first hoop for Suffield as senior Ben Woodhouse banked a five-footer.
Sean Sullivan’s drive took the Wildcats to 4-0, four minutes gone.
“We knew if we did the right things, we would win,” said Kozak.
In the first period, the right thing was back-to-back threes from Justin Pease (8 points) and Nate Cook (game-high 11 points, two 3s), 6-4.
“When we went ahead, we took away their delay game,” said Kozak.
Mills advantages had a chance to shine in the second period.
Big men Ben Lewis and Cook opened the quarter on a 6-0 binge under the basket; Max Waddington got to the foul line for two; Lewis, for two more; then Spencer Maloney for one more.
Suffield’s first hoop of the period, a five-footer from Sam Flynn, came with 1:18 left in the half.
Pease closed it out with a drive.
The Spartans led 19-6.
“I thought (the Spartans) played great,” said Suffield coach Dan Gatto. “They’re long and they contested everything.”
“We got contributions from all over,” said Cook, a 6-foot-3 junior.
Cook’s own contributions started the third on the right foot for Mills, coming out for his second three, then getting to the foul line for another pair, 24-9.
Sullivan got his team into double digits, 25-11, with a three-point play, 3:22 left in the third.
The 28-14 lead might have been too comfortable.
The Wildcats did two things in the final period.
First, after three dismal shooting quarters, they found the hoop. Then they threw up a full court press that rattled the Spartans.
“It surprised us,” said Cook. “We didn’t see them press against Granby.”
McCoy, Woodhouse, and Troy Hastings launched an 11-2 Suffield run through the first four minutes.
At 30-25, Mills, an ugly game became uglier for the Spartans.
Alexander Daigle to the rescue.
The 6-3 senior scored seven of his nine points in the game’s final four minutes — a personal 7-2 run to seal the game.
The Spartans are alive and ready for Monday.
No. 1 Lewis Mills 37, No. 17 Suffield 27
At Lewis Mills High School
Suffield 4 2 8 13—27
Lewis Mills 6 14 8 9—37
Suffield (27): Sean Sullivan 2-2-6; Nolan McCoy 2-1-6; Robert Howard 0-1-1; Jake Arruda 0-0-0; Sam Flynn 2-0-4; Ben Woodhouse 1-2-4; Troy Hastings 2-2-6; Totals: 9-8-27.
Lewis Mills (37): Spencer Maloney 0-3-3; Alexander Daigle 3-3-9; Nate Cook 3-3-11; Max Waddington 0-2-2; Justin Pease 3-0-8; Dan Wilcox 0-0-0; Ben Lewis 1-2-4; Totals: 10-10-37.
3-point goals: S—McCoy. LM—Cook 2; Pease 2.
Records: Suffield 12-10; Lewis Mills 19-4.