HIGGANUM >> After coaching girls basketball for 27 seasons at Hamden and Hand, Jim Bombaci described his move to Haddam-Killingworth as “like a new start for me.” And there have been some memorable moments during his eight seasons on Little City Road.
There was a Shoreline Conference championship in 2009 – H-K’s first since 2000 and Bombaci’s seventh overall (he won six at Hand). And there was a run to the Class M semifinals a year ago, the Cougars first Final Four appearance in school history.
H-K’s victory Saturday night against Hyde Leadership provided Bombaci with another special moment.
Senior forward Kiley Anderson poured in a game-high 21 points and had eight rebounds, and senior forward Lauren McCann had 15 points and six rebounds as the Cougars secured Bombaci’s 500th career win by defeating Hyde, 66-44, at the H-K Fieldhouse.
Bombaci joins Coginchuag’s Nick Economopoulos, Portland’s Nick Chaconis and Morgan’s Joe Grippo as active Shoreline Conference girls basketball coaches in the 500 win club. Economopoulos has 600 plus wins, while North Branford’s Chris Webster is close to the 500 win milestone.
“This is definitely such a memorable day for Coach Bombaci,” said Anderson, who also had five blocks. “We all couldn’t be more proud of him. He definitely puts his heart and soul into basketball. We’re just so excited.”
Bombaci, who guided Hand to a Class L state title in 1999, has a career mark of 500-299.
“It just means I’m old and I’ve been around a long time,” Bombaci said. “But I’ve had some wonderful kids. You just watched these kids tonight and how hard they played. We had a little stall at the beginning but then we just took off.”
Hyde jumped out to a 7-0 lead before McCann found Anderson in the low post where the Cougars 6-2 center converted a conventional 3-point play.
After Hyde junior Dominique Burgess (eight points) hit a bank shot for a 9-5 lead, the Cougars went to work. Junior forward Halie Serbent sank a pair of free throws and McCann found Anderson underneath again for a basket and H-K was off and running. Senior guard Maya Savino’s three straight fast-break baskets early in the second quarter capped a 20-0 run and gave H-K a 25-9 advantage.
“It was kind of our job to come out here and put it away early and make sure (Bombaci) got the win,” said Savino.
H-K had leads of 34-14 at halftime and 55-27 after three quarters.
“We really have to put four quarters together,” Savino explained. “I think that’s a big issue with us.”
The Howling Wolves (3-4) were led by their two seniors, guard Trayneice Mims, who had 17 points and two steals, and forward Adasia Beard (12 points and five rebounds).
“We’ve got some young kids and the inexperience is a factor,” said Hyde coach Tracy Claxton. “It’s still early but we need to work on our defense. That’s been a big problem all season.”
Serbent finished with 10 points and four rebounds, Savino had six points and four assists, and freshman Brinley Anderson, Kiley’s younger sister, came off the bench and scored seven points for the Cougars (4-2).
“I’ve been very lucky,” said Bombaci. “I’ve had some kids that really wanted to play and that play hard and have made a nice career for me because it’s the kids that make it, not the coaching. And for all of my former players, thank you. They’re the only reason I’m standing here.”
“He works really hard and he cares about us,” said Savino, the Cougars captain. “He would go above and beyond. I’ve had a lot of coaches in my career and he’s probably the one that cares about beyond the basketball court the most.”