LITCHFIELD >> No. 2 Nonnewaug pulled out a 42-40 win over No. 1 Northwestern in a Berkshire League Boys Basketball final in which both teams saved their best for a down-the-stretch thriller.
Tied 19-19 at the half, everybody struggled through missed layups and shots in the first half, knocked askew by nerves and good defenses.
The Highlanders found their second-half game first for a 10-4 run through the first six minutes of the third period.
Alex Case started with a three; Devin Warren sank a foul shot; Tucker Kreh hit from the baseline; Jayson Reola hit back-to-back layups off great passes.
The Highlander lead was 29-23 – huge in a game like this.
On the other side, big Nonnewaug senior guard Nick DeCicco, struggled as hard as anyone for most of the first three quarters.
“It was far from my best night,” said the Berkshire League All-Star.
Nevertheless, his motor smoothed out with a runner and foul interrupting the Highlander run toward the end of the third period.
DeCicco missed his chance at a three-point play, but teammate Devon Fiedler brought the Northwestern lead back to 29-25 with an inbound layup at the end of the period.
Fiedler stuck again, along with Ryan Gunnoud’s second three-pointer of the game early in the final quarter, tying the score 30-30.
With that, the curtain rose on the real contest between regular-season co-champions.
Northwestern’s Case twins, Alex and Tony, thwarted in their magic for much of the game by great D from Chiefs Ryan Gunnoud and Jacob Matta, got their wands back in back-to-back artistic layups.
DeCicco, with just six points in the first three quarters, nailed a three, 34-33, Northwestern.
Alex Case spun in a high-wire layup; Tony Case sank two foul shots, 38-33.
DeCicco, on his way to 10 fourth-quarter points for a game-high 16, put down a turn-around foul-line jumper, 38-35.
Matta made a crucial steal and layup, 38-37.
Alex Case pulled it away again with another magic trick, 40-37.
DeCicco was on his trail – a three from the corner tied it 40-40, 1:14 left in the game.
“The basketball gods were smiling,” said DeCicco.
Nonnewaug Coach Tim Drakeley called one timeout.
Northwestern coach Doug Sebach, with possession, called three, winding the clock down to 44 seconds.
“We wanted to make sure we got a good shot,” said Sebach, hoping it might be the final play of the game.
The Highlanders got their open shot – a three-pointer bounced off the rim – then got another chance when the rebound deflected out of bounds.
With 9.5 seconds left, Nonnewaug’s Nate Firlings stole the Highlander inbounds pass.
Six and a half seconds left, DeCicco draws a foul on a blocked layup.
“I was nervous because I missed the free throw before,” he said.
This time, there were no misses, 42-40.
With 1.9 seconds left, Northwestern got off an off-balance three-point try. It wasn’t close.
“(DeCicco) hit them when it counted,” said Coach Drakeley.
“It didn’t happen for us tonight,” said Coach Sebach. “We’ll put it behind us and go on to the next battle.”
That comes next week for both teams – Northwestern hosts Valley Regional; Stonington comes to Nonnewaug.
No. 2 Nonnewaug 42, No. 1 Northwestern 40
At Wamogo High School
Nonnewaug 12 7 6 17 – 42
Northwestern 9 10 10 11 – 40
Nonnewaug (42): Ryan Gunnoud 2-0-6; Peter Bequary 0-0-0; Jacob Matt 2-2-6; Devon Fiedler 3-0-7; Andrew Roden 0-0-0; Nick DeCicco 6-3-16; Nate Firlings 2-0-5; Ethan Ray 0-2-2; Totals: 15-6-42.
Northwestern (40): Jayson Reola 2-0-4; Tony Case 2-2-7; Alex Case 4-0-9; Tucker Kreh 3-1-7; Devin Warren 2-1-6; Zack Plitt 1-0-2; Sheldon Green 2-0-5; Totals: 16-4-40.
3-point goals: N – Gunnoud 2; Fiedler; DeCicco 2; Firlings. NW – T. Case; A. Case; Warren; Green.
Records: Nonnewaug 19-4; 19-2 Berkshire League; Northwestern 19-4; 18-3 Berkshire League.
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