BRIDGEPORT — It’s satisfying to take that next step at playoff time.
The Kolbe Cathedral boys basketball team had seen their SWC Tournament playoff dreams end in the semifinals the past two years.
The Cougars had no interest in going for the trifecta.
No. 2 seed Kolbe Cathedral put together a dominant second half to rally past No. 3 Joel Barlow, 48-42 Tuesday night at Kaulbach gym at historic Sheehan Center.
The victory means that Kolbe Cathedral (16-6) will face No. 1 seed Immaculate in Thursday night’s SWC championship at Masuk in Monroe. Immaculate ousted No. 4 Newtown in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
“We talked a lot about losing those two semifinals on the road,” said Kolbe Cathedral coach John Pfohl. “We worked very hard this regular season about getting home court advantage for the playoffs. And playing tonight in our house was the big payoff. We got to take the next step. Immaculate will be a great challenge in the finals.”
Barlow led 9-2 then 13-8 after one period. However, Kolbe Cathedral scored five points in the last 1:20 to close to 24-22 at halftime.
In the second half, Kolbe Cathedral pounded the offensive glass to earn a plethora of extra possessions. The aptly-named Cougars also used their speed and athleticism to hold Barlow (16-6) at bay.
“We always want to get second and third shots,” Pfohl said. “We had four guys hitting the offensive glass.”
A 10-3 surge gave Kolbe Cathedral a 34-29 edge with 3:27 in the third quarter. The Cougars would never trail again. Barlow closed to 45-42 with 48 seconds to play but came up empty on its last two possessions.
“Kolbe Cathedral did a nice job defensively,” said Barlow coach Pat Yerina. “Their pressure hurt. We had too many turnovers. When the game score is in the 40s you can’t overcome that.”
In a contest with just a trio of 3-pointers overall, Barlow did damage early in the paint. The Falcons’ 6-foot-5 senior center Thomas Richitelli had 12 of his team-high 17 points in the first half. Forward Woodie Janki added nine of his 15 points in the second half.
Junior guard Daniel Wellington was the orchestra leader for Kolbe Cathedral. He led the Cougars with 17 points and his ballhandling was instrumental in killing clock time in the final six minutes.
“Daniel was terrific. We asked him to do an awful lot tonight,” Pfohl said. “He was an All-League leader as everybody on our side battled for the victory.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Kolbe Cathedral’s Daniel Wellington. The junior guard forced turnovers, had 12 of his team-high 17 points in the second half and killed clock down the stretch for the Cougars.
“It’s exciting to get back to the SWC Tournament final. It’s been a long time (1st time since 2012, 2nd trip since 2008). There was a time in the past when this boys basketball program was dominant. This group appreciates all the hard work involved to get us back there this year.” — Kolbe Cathedral coach John Pfohl