WEST HARTFORD >> For the Northwest Catholic boys basketball team it was one play on Tuesday that injected energy and excitement back into the team. And one play that propelled them into the second round of the Class M state tournament.
Leading 23rd-seeded Brookfield by three coming out of halftime, freshman swing-man Cairo McCrory was ready for the play that would send him over the top of two defenders and spark his Lions to victory.
“He sets an out-screen for me,” McCrory said. “I step back to the 3-point line, if it’s not there I come down to the elbow. It’s usually a lob, but it wasn’t there. So I caught it, went off two feet and dunk it right here.”
Immediately Northwest Catholic clicked into another gear and took off.
“We started hitting our shots more,” McCrory said. “We were a little off in the first half, my boy Jose [Echevarria] got his 3, which was nice. We went on a run after that.”
A 13-2 run by Northwest Catholic and the Lions didn’t look back defeating the Bobcats 71-50 on Mirabello Court and advancing to the second round where they will play 7th-seeded Nonnewaug on Thursday in Woodbury.
“We’re still alive,” Northwest Catholic coach John Mirabello said. “We’re still playing. It’s the state tournament.”
McCrory led all Northwest Catholic scorers with 22 while Stephen Laffin chipped in 19 — including three 3-pointers.
Austin DaSilva scored a game-high 25 for Brookfield — 15 of which came from behind the arc.
The Bobcats kept things close throughout the third quarter and made it even tighter at the buzzer when DaSilva hit an off-balance triple from the left wing as horn sounded to cut into Northwest Catholic’s lead and make it 55-46.
“When the kid hit the shot they come to the bench and I go, ‘This is the playoffs. This is the stuff that happens in the playoffs,'” Mirabello said. “‘Be excited, this is basketball. These guys didn’t come in here afraid, they came in here and played hard.
“You need to focus on everything, you can’t take any plays off either end of the court and we were able to stretch it out at the end of the game which was very important.”
Stephen Laffin took control as the fourth quarter started, scoring the first seven points of the final frame and extending the Lions’ lead to 62-46.
“Steve’s playing the best of his career right now and we needed it,” Mirabello said. “He just kind of waits his time, waits his turn and waits his number and that’s kind of what you want in the tournament, some seniors who have been there.”
After DaSilva scored in transition for Brookfield, Northwest Catholic scored another seven straight to put the game away.
“They’re a very deep team and you can tell,” Brookfield coach John Fleming said. “We had a lot of juniors out there and this was their first state game, so they got a little tired out there. I think that hurt us a little bit.”
Long-range shooting is what kept the Bobcats in the first half.
They made seven 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes, but could not withstand the late push Northwest Catholic put on them.
“I knew that had pretty much the whole thing,” Fleming said. “I knew they had height, I knew they had shooters, so when you have that combination then it’s tough to go to their court — and try to pull out a victory.”
Northwest Catholic 71, Brookfield 50
Brookfield: 15 19 12 4 — 50
Northwest Catholic: 16 22 17 16 — 71
(at Northwest Catholic)
Lucas Joshi 0 0-0 0, Austin DaSilva 9 2-2 25, Christian Saltarelli 2 0-0 5, Liam Carrol 0 0-0 0, Nick Lopez 3 0-0 6, David Albanese 2 1-1 5, Cooper Mahoney 2 0-0 5, Trevor Lewis 1 0-0 2, Cam Gleichauf 0 0-0 0, Joe Brown 0 0-0 0, Nick Janney 0 0-0 0, Devan Joshi 0 0-0 0, Connor Gruda 1 0-0 2, John Garizio 0 0-0 0 — Total 20 3-3 50.
Northwest Catholic (71)
Jaylen Palmer 0 0-0 0, Jalen Sears 0 0-0 0, Luca Mirabello 1 2-2 5, Jose Echevarria 2 1-1 7, Quinton Haughton 0 0-0 0, Stephen Laffin 7 2-4 19, Aaron Renker 2 0-0 6, Connor Daly 2 0-0 4, Chris Chappel 1 0-0 2, Cairo McCrory 7 7-7 22, Patrick Lazor 2 2-4 6 — Total 24 14-20 71.
3-point goals: B — DaSilva (5), Saltarelli, Mahoney; NWC — Mirabello, Echevarria, Laffin (3), Renker (2), McCrory.
Fouled out: None.
Technical fouls: None.
Team records: Brookfield 9-12; Northwest Catholic 18-6.