SUFFIELD – Two teams with chips on their shoulders and something to prove went toe to toe Thursday night in the NCCC Tournament championship game.
East Windsor went 19-1 in the regular season and won the league championship for the first time in over 30 years. The third smallest school in the league was looking to bring home a championship and complete a remarkable turnaround.
When head coach John Cessario took over seven years ago, the Panthers lost their first 47 games.
Granby, on the other hand, came into the game as the defending Class S champion. Hampered with injuries, the Bears struggled through the regular season with an 11-9 record.
But the Bears have been on a roll, winning three straight games to earn a berth in the championship game for the second consecutive season. They eliminated Avon in the quarterfinals and rallied from an 11-point, third quarter deficit to beat Ellington in the semifinals.
Granby held East Windsor without a point for a stretch of over eight minutes and built a nine-point lead with 5:47 remaining in the game. But the Panthers dug deep. They didn’t allow another Granby point in regulation and scored nine points to send the game into overtime.
In OT, the Panthers were a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line and gave up just one Granby field goal to win its first NCCC Tournament championship since 1983 with a 41-36 decision Thursday night.
“We had it. We had it,” Granby coach Walter Hansen said.
Granby had the championship in their sights but East Windsor wouldn’t let it go.
“Good things happen to teams that work hard,” Cessario said. “(Granby) is a great team. They’re the state champions. They didn’t go down easily. We’re fortunate we had a few things bounce our way.”
Perhaps. But the Panthers grabbed that championship trophy right of Granby’s hands.
In overtime, East Windsor’s 6-foot-4 senior forward Kevin Mocadlo ripped down two offensive rebounds and had a block. Teammate Malik Williams had another block of Granby’s Curtis Field with 1:49 left in OT and the Panthers holding a two-point lead.
“We know we can defend,” Cessario said. “And when you can defend, good things can happen.”
East Windsor (22-1) led by five with 5:33 left in the third quarter, 24-19, after tournament MVP Dajon Farley drained a three-point shot along the baseline. But East Windsor stumbled. They went scoreless for the next 8:03, missing shots and giving up rebounds.
Sparked by Logan Brower (9 points) and Field (12 points), Granby went on a 14-0 run.
When Brower drove to the basket and put a shot up and off the glass with 5:47 left in the game, it gave the Bears a nine-point lead, 33-24.
East Windsor fell back on its defense.
“We made an adjustment and went to our full court press,” Cessario said. “And we played with our legs and our hearts. When it began to work, we stuck with it.”
Wadsworth sank two free throws to cut the lead to seven and Farley took over, scoring the final seven points of the game for the Panthers. With 5:08, he drove to the basket for two points. With 3:34 remaining, he drained a three-point shot from the top of the key. With 2:23 left, he hit a jumper to tie the game at 33.
At the other end of the floor, Mocadlo had two key rebounds and a blocked shot.
East Windsor ran out the final 2:13 of the game looking for a good shot. Granby’s Kennedy Dear blocked a shot by Mocadlo with two seconds left to force overtime.
In overtime, East Windsor’s Adam Fisher drove into three Granby defenders and was fouled. He sank two foul shots with 2:07 left for a 35-33 lead.
Wadsworth sank two more foul shots with 56 seconds left to extend the lead to four. Mocadlo sank two more with 28 seconds remaining for a six-point lead. The Panthers sank 14-of-16 foul shots in the contest.
Granby (12-10) scored just one field goal and scored just three points in the final 9:47 of the fourth quarter and OT.
“They made a heck of a run,” Hansen said of East Windsor. “They played great basketball tonight. We both showed we can play winning basketball in the fourth quarter. They just made a few more plays than we did at the end.”
In the consolation contest, Ellington had little trouble with Windsor Locks in a 71-56 win. Jonathan Bassett led Ellington with 14 points while John Connelly and Tyler Moriarty each had 10 points each. Jonathan Oliveira had 12 points for Windsor Locks.
Oliveira and Bassett were named to the All-Tournament along with Brower and Tanner Gibson from Granby and Wadsworth and Farley from East Windsor.
East Windsor 41, Granby 36, OT
Zachary Quinn 0-0-0, Curtis Field 4-0-10, Raymond Mooney 0-0-0, Connor Brown 0-0-0, Logan Brower 3-1-9, Kevin Bates 0-0-0, Tanner Gibson 1-0-3, David Eke 6-0-14, Kennedy Dear 0-0-0. Totals 13-2-36
EAST WINDSOR (41)
Frankie Wadsworth 3-7-14, Adam Fisher 0-2-2, Chris DeSousa 3-1-7, Dajon Farley 5-2-14, Malik Williams 0-0-0, Kevin Mocadlo 1-2-4. Totals 12-14-41
Granby (12-10) 5 9 15 5 3 — 36
East Windsor (20-1) 7 9 8 9 8 – 41
Three-point goals: Wadsworth (E), Farley (E) 2, Field (G) 2, Brower (G), Gibson (G), Eke (G) 2
Ellington 71, Windsor Locks 56
WINDSOR LOCKS (56)
Alphonso Zaporta 2-1-7, Matthew Shaw 0-0-0, Nathan Pierce 8-3-21, Brian Cooper 1-2-5, Hector Martinez 3-0-6, Kenan Omerbasic 1-0-3, Jonathan Oliveira 5-0-12, Travis Kupec 1-0-2. Totals 21-6-56
Jonathan Bassett 6-1-14, Brian Fitzsimons 1-2-5, Mark Hickman 3-0-7, Drew Brennan 1-2-4, Daniel Hayes 1-2-4, Brian Gerber 3-1-8, John Connelly 5-0-10, Tyler Moriarty 2-5-10, Robert Brisson 1-1-3, Nicholas Schipper 1-0-2, Baylen Eason 1-2-4. Totals 25-16-71
Windsor Locks (16-7) 8 13 18 17 – 56
Ellington (16-7) 20 6 22 23 – 71
Three-point goals: Bassett (E), Fitzsimons (E), Hickman (E), Gerber (E), Moriaty (E); Zaporta (W) 2, Pierce (W) 2, Omberbasic (W), Oliveira (W) 2