MOODUS >> Stafford started strong and then withstood a valiant comeback bid from Hale-Ray to win the second annual Courtney Marineau Holiday Tournament championship Monday night at Hale-Ray High School.
The Bulldogs also defeated the Noises in the tournament finals a year ago. “It was very similar to what we did with them last year,” Stafford coach Mike Morhardt said following his club’s 73-63 victory. “We came out fast and to (Hale-Ray’s) credit they just keep playing so hard.”
Tournament MVP Jake Kalette led all scorers with 26 points. The Bulldogs senior guard had six rebounds. He also made 12 of 14 free throws, including four straight during the game’s key moment early in the fourth quarter.
Kalette had 15 points in Stafford’s tourney win against Sports Sciences on Friday.
“For three years he’s kind of been in the background,” explained Morhardt. “We’ve been begging him to be assertive. Even his teammates have been telling him he needs to shoot more and be more aggressive and he has. He just realizes now that he’s our best player.”
Bulldogs senior forward Dylan Seekins, who made the all-tournament team, posted a double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds. Luke Broadhurst (13 points) drained four 3-pointers and Alex Hoss scored 10 points for Stafford (3-1).
Hale-Ray senior guard Jason Traceski scored 23 points and had four rebounds. Jimmy Lucido came off the bench and had a terrific night with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists, while James Jones (seven rebounds) and Craig Botteon each had nine points for the Noises (1-3).
Traceski and Botteon were named to the all-tournament team.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said Hale-Ray coach Gary Marineau. “This is the kind of team you go home and you say, ‘You know they gave you effort.’ And it’s going to pay off sometime this year. Our goal is to make the state tournament and if we do we could be a problem.”
After falling behind by as many 13 points in the first quarter, Hale-Ray kept chipping away at the Bulldogs lead. Stafford, which never trailed, had a 41-33 halftime advantage and a 52-47 lead after three.
But Traceski opened the fourth with a fastbreak hoop and Lucido threaded a pass to Jones for a layup and Hale-Ray trailed 52-51 with 7:18 remaining.
After the Noises missed a couple of chances to take the lead, Traceski thought he had stolen the ball from Kalette but Traceski was whistled for a foul, as well as a technical.
With Stafford already in the 1-and-1 bonus situation, Kalette stepped to the line and made four consecutive free throws for a 56-51 lead with 6:07 left.
“It’s a one point game and we get that mystical call,” said Marineau. “It was a tough call because the ref was kind of blocked out but I’m being honest with you, it wasn’t a foul. All he did was make a steal from the backside. And Jason’s never had a technical in his life. That was a reaction to something he knew was a steal. That was really a turning point mentally.”
Jones swept through the lane for a layup that made it 56-53. But that’s as close as Hale-Ray got. Kalette started an 8-0 spurt with a driving layup, then capped the run with a pair of free throws to give the Bulldogs a 64-53 lead with 2:58 left in the fourth quarter.
“We were physically drained cutting it to one but you’ve got to give Stafford credit because they made a lot of shots early,” said Marineau.
It was Stafford’s third straight win after a season-opening loss against Suffield.
“It’s a great win for us,” said Morhardt. “We love coming here. It’s a first class tournament. Gary (Marineau) and Marty (Ryczek) do a great job. We’re thrilled to be able to win it again because Hale-Ray’s a quality team, there’s no question.”
Sports Medical Sciences Academy (Hartford) defeated Vinal Tech, 71-40, in the consolation game.
The Tigers pressure defense was too much for the turnover plagued Hawks early on as SMSA built a 21-5 lead after one quarter. Vinal Tech trailed 43-21 late in the third quarter after a hoop from sophomore Jawan Bennett (six points).
But SMSA sealed things with a 16-1 run, capped by three quick baskets to open the fourth quarter as the Tigers lead ballooned to 59-22 with 6:34 remaining.
Junior forward Dwayne Bernard had 16 points and was named to the all-tournament team, while Tony Correa and Jon Mikal Riley each had eight points for SMSA (1-3).
Hawks senior guard Quinn Mitchell, who also made the all-tournament team, led all scorers with 21 points. Dede Albrincoles chipped in nine points for Vinal Tech (1-4).