— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) March 9, 2019
GLASTONBURY — Maximus Edwards did all he could in the fourth quarter to keep the Bunnell boys basketball team alive Friday night.
The Bulldogs trailed all night long to Glastonbury in the Division II state tournament quarterfinals. But Edwards, a junior swingman, kept scoring, and scoring, and scoring to keep hope alive.
No. 2 seed Glastonbury was finally able to hold off No. 7 Bunnell 74-69 at home thanks to hitting 10 straight free throws in the final 1 minute, 12 seconds.
The Tomahawks advance to Tuesday’s semifinals against fellow CCC team New Britain. Game time will likely be a 7 p.m. tip, but the site is still to be determined.
“I’m proud of the kids we played hard and we played well until the final 4 minutes,” Glastonbury coach Jim Vaughan said. “I think a little fatigue from the pace, a little foul trouble and then we have to tighten some stuff up late-game.”
Glastonbury (21-4) ended up shooting 14 of 16 from the line in the final quarter.
Edwards ended up with a game-high 37 points, 20 in the fourth quarter. Josh Giannoni added 19 points in his final game for the Bulldogs.
“We tried to fight back for as long as we could. But in the end, they hit their free throws,” Edwards said. “We woke up a little bit too late.”
Said Bunnell coach Dannie Powell: “He is a special kind of player. He made some terrific shots. The kid couldn’t practice yesterday. He was sick, throwing up all day.”
Glastonbury senior guard Aaron Latham finished with 29 points, including all four free throws he took in the final quarter.
“With a team like Bunnell, they really try to speed you up and try to get you out of your flow on offense,” Latham said. “The game plan was to move the ball, get in the lane, get easy buckets and get back on defense.”
At one point, the Tomahawks were shooting over 80 percent from the floor in the first half. They ended up shooting 68 percent (17 of 25) in the first half.
Most of it was at the rim, back-door cuts that shredded Bunnell’s man-to-man defense.
“I think their defense is geared to stop you in the backcourt, not in the frontcourt, so if we didn’t turn it over in the backcourt, I felt confident we could get good shots. We are a good passing team and our movement was good tonight,” Vaughan said.
Said Powell: “After the Stamford game (second-round win), I wasn’t happy because our defense wasn’t solid. I knew what to expect from Glastonbury, a lot of back-door cuts, they make fantastic reads. I didn’t think we were digging down on defense in those (first two tournament) games and that led to this.”
The Tomahawks increased their 12-point halftime lead (37-25) to as many as 16 twice in the third quarter.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) March 9, 2019
Then Edwards went to work. He scored the last four points of the third quarter then the 20 in the final period for Bunnell (20-6).
“It was a really good season we hoped to had gone further. We have to work hard in the off-season to get ready for next year,” Edwards said.
With 61 seconds left, Edwards was whistled for an intentional foul and Thomas Shea a technical foul for Glastonbury. Both sides made two free throws to make it 68-62. Edwards then missed a 3-pointer and two free throws by Andrew Sullivan increased the lead to eight.
“I thought (Dev) Ostrowski (from East Lyme) was the best high school player we’ve seen,” Vaughan said. “Primo (Amir Spears from Windsor) gave us heck. (Edwards) is right up there. He is only a junior. He has a very high ceiling because he can do a little bit of everything.”
Edwards was then fouled on another 3-point attempt by Shea, who fouled out. He made two free throws with 35.6 seconds left.
The Tomahawks moved the ball around long enough that Edwards had to commit his fifth foul with 24.6 seconds left.
With the lead back up to eight, Khalid Moreland made a basket, then stole the inbounds and found Jerrod Leaks in the corner for a three and the lead was down to 72-69 with 10.7 seconds left.
Latham was fouled and made both free throws to allow Glastonbury to move on to its third semifinal in the past eight seasons. The team has never been to a state final.
“(Latham) is a warrior. The bigger the moment, usually, the better he is,” Vaughan said.
Said Powell: “Hopefully we can build on this, work hard in the summertime and get back here and even further next year.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Maximus Edwards Bunnell: Finished with 37 points, including 20 points in the fourth quarter, for the Bulldogs.
“He has a very high ceiling because he can do a little bit of everything.”
Glastonbury coach Jim Vaughan on Max Edwards.