EAST GRANBY >> The Avon High boys basketball team was having difficulty getting a shot at the basket in Friday night’s NCCC Tournament championship game. Sport Medicine Science Academy was putting pressure on the ball and creating turnovers.
The Tigers limited Avon to just four points in the third quarter and opened up a seven-point lead with 1:02 left in the quarter. SMSA led by seven with 4:32 left in the game.
But playing in their final North Central Connecticut Conference game, the Falcons refused to wilt. Junior Bryan Lachance had a pair of three-point field goals in the final 1:44 and scored a game and career-high 20 points as Avon beat SMSA, 48-44 to win their ninth NCCC Tournament championship and their first since 2013.
Lachance, the tournament MVP, drained four three-point shots while teammate Tim Patton sank a pair of three-point goals to help the Falcons (18-5) rally. “I have to give Bryan Lachance credit. He hit the shots out there tonight,” Avon coach Chris Vozzolo said. “He stepped up. He’s coming off an injury and has worked his way back into the lineup. Tonight was his night and he shined.”
Lachance deflected praise to his teammates. “It was made easy the way my teammates moved the ball. It just came to me.”
This is Avon’s final season in the NCCC. Next winter, they’ll be playing in the Central Connecticut Conference. The Tigers won their first NCCC championship in February and that included a 10-point win in January by SMSA over the Falcons.
“This was a game of runs and we didn’t give up a big run,” Vozzolo said. “We were having a tough time offensively so we switched up our defense and got a few key turnovers.”
SMSA missed a lot of shots in the paint but they looked on the verge of taking the game over in the first quarter, leading by three, 9-6. But Avon exploded on a 13-2 run, fueled by a pair of three-point shots from Lachance and a steal and two foul shots from Nate Laszewski.
The first quarter was a nightmare for Avon, who shot 1-for-10 from the field. The third quarter wasn’t much better with just four points. But the Falcons stayed close.
Rashawn Mason, with a team-high 17 points, scored on a one-handed jumper in the lane with 4:32 remaining to give SMSA a seven-point lead, 40-33. But Paton drained a three-pointer after some nice passes to cut the lead to four. Mason, who scored on three straight possessions for SMSA, added another basket to push the lead back to six with 4:03 left.
But Laszewski (11 points) sank his own rebound to again cut the lead to four, 42-38 with 3:44 remaining. On SMSA’s next three offensive possessions, they missed a shot and had two turnovers.
“We got away from our game, which is penetrating into the lane,” Tiger coach Milun Mraz said. “(Avon) shot the ball a lot better this time than in our last game. We made some poor decisions defensively at key points in the game.”
On an inbounds play, Lachance got the ball and sank a three-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to one, 42-41 with 1:44 remaining. After another SMSA turnover, Lachance drained a three-pointer to give Avon its first lead since midway through the third quarter with 54 seconds left, 44-42.
Senior Bryan St. Jean added two foul shots with 20.9 seconds remaining and Laszewski sank a pair of foul shots with 5.9 seconds left to secure the win.
In the consolation game, Suffield and Granby cleared the benches in a game that ended without much passion from either side as Suffield prevailed, 39-38. The two teams combined to score just 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Zach Vahre scored his only basket on a one-handed shot with 1:01 left in regulation to snap a 35-35 tie and Sam Pines sank two free throws with 8 seconds remaining to extend the lead to four points. Kevin Bates hit a three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left but that was it for Granby.
Tanner Gibson had a game-high 16 points to lead Granby. Suffield was led by Flynn with 11.
David Eke and Gibson were named to the All-Tournament team along with Flynn, Mason and Dwayne Bernard from SMSA and Laszewski and Lachance from Avon. The start of the game was delayed for more than 30 minutes after a SMSA cheerleader collapsed during the national anthem. She was treated and taken to a local hospital.
Avon 48, SMSA 44
At East Granby
Bryan St. Jean 0-2-2, Ian McDonald 1-0-2, Bryan Lachance 7-2-20, Zach Stirling 1-0-2, Tim Patton 2-2-8, Jordan Williams 1-1-3, Nate Laszewski 2-7-11. Totals 14 14-48
Dwayne Bernard 3-1-7, Rashawn Mason 8-1-17, Ryan Rivera 0-2-2, Daunte Brickley 1-1-3, Jon Hernandez 0-2-2, Jon Mikal Riley 1-0-2, Lorenzo Aikens 1-0-2, Daquan Carr 2-3-9. Totals 16-10-44
Avon (18-5) 6 21 4 17 – 48
SMSA (20-3) 9 13 14 8 – 44
3-pointers: Carr (S) 2, Lachance (A) 4, Patton (A) 2
Suffield 39, Granby 38
At East Granby
Ben Eke 2-0-5, Connor Field 0-0-0, Luca Piatti 0-0-0, Tyler Disabella 0-1-1, Jaiden Delaire 2-0-5, Chris Tweedale 2-0-4, R.J. Mooney 0-0-0, Kevin Bates 1-0-3, Conner Fallon 0-0-0, Duke Lange 0-0-0. Tanner Gibson 6-4-16, David Eke 1-0-3, Fred Moffa 0-1-1. Totals 14-6-38
Gezim Ramadani 1-0-3, Jacob Arruda 0-0-0, Zach Vahre 1-0-2, Robert Howard 3-0-7, Mike Carucci 1-2-4, Josh Baskin 0-0-0, Sam Flynn 4-2-11, Matt Clark 1-0-2, Ryan Costello 0-0-0, Austin Mankouski 1-0-3, Ben Nigro 1-1-3, Andrew Moskowicz 1-0-2. Totals 14-7-39
Granby (17-6) 14 5 13 6 – 38
Suffield (15-8) 16 8 11 4 – 39
3-pointers: Ben Eke (G), Delaire (G), Bates (G), David Eke (G); Ramadani (S), Howard (S), Flynn (S), Mankouski (S)
Updates every minute – View full tournament