NEW HAVEN >> Valley Regional boys basketball coach Kevin Woods watched Hoosiers before the Shoreline Conference tournament championship game.
And the Warriors needed more late heroics than Hickory High on Friday night.
Senior guard David Bradbury poured in a game-high 19 points, senior Chris Jean-Pierre collected a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and senior Hunter Linfesty had 12 points, including seven points in overtime, as Valley Regional topped Lyme-Old Lyme, 66-55, before a huge crowd at Wilbur Cross High School.
The top-seeded Warriors (18-5) captured their second SLC championship in three years.
“We’ve got nine seniors and they’re hardworking kids and they’ve been in this position before,” Woods said. “They’ve been in two state championship games and they’ve won one. Now, they’ve got two Shoreline titles. They’re a special group.”
For Old Lyme, Jacob Ballachino scored 15 points, while Drake Gavin added 11 points, including a low post hoop with 1:12 left that sent it into overtime.
“I’m a little bit stunned,” said Old Lyme coach Kirk Kaczor, who guided the Wildcats to SLC titles in 2002 and 2011. “Our kids played great. Once we fell behind in overtime we had to play catch-up and that’s hard to do against Valley.”
The game was a classic barnburner between teams meeting in the finals for the third time in five seasons. The Warriors avenged an overtime loss to the Wildcats in the 2011 championship game with a finals victory in 2013.
Bradbury, who was named the SLC Player of the Year, scored 13 first half points to give Valley a 27-25 edge at halftime.
The No. 2 Wildcats (18-5) made a run at the end of the third quarter, taking a 44-41 lead on a 3-pointer and a fastbreak hoop from Matt Watts-St. Germain.
Linfesty’s basket off a terrific inbounds pass from Evan Smith (six assists) gave Valley a 48-46 lead with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter. But Gavin tied it with a low post hoop.
The Warriors held the ball for the last shot but turned it over with 2.9 seconds left and Old Lyme could only muster a half court desperation shot at the buzzer.
Tied at 48, Valley scored the first 11 points in overtime. Linfesty sparked things with a low post hoop and a conventional 3-point play.
Jean-Pierre capped the run with a driving layup and Valley led 59-48 with 1:20 left to play.
Junior forward Nash Eppard had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Warriors.
“This is incredible,” Bradbury said. “Ever since I watched Jonathan Luster and those guys do it two years ago this is all I wanted. I wanted to be able to cut down that net and hold the trophy up high with my teammates. It’s a team win.”
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