SOUTHBURY >> It was tough enough for the Bunnell boys basketball team to get to the South-West Conference tournament final to try and defend its title.
Weston almost knocked Bunnell out in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs prevailed in overtime. Then it took Bunnell over two hours to get to Pomperaug High for Thursday’s final due to Route 8 being closed. The game started a half-hour late because of it.
Then Kolbe Cathedral made a frantic comeback late in the fourth quarter to try and steal the title in the final seconds. But tournament MVP Issac Vann made four straight free throws to give Bunnell the 68-64 win and back-to-back crowns.
“Winning back to back is tough in anything, any sport, anywhere,” Bunnell coach Pat Yerina said. “For us to do it is a tribute to them. I think it is (more meaningful)…. When we got on the court this year every time, we had that little bull’s-eye and teams stepped up against us.”
Said Vann: “It’s definitely a great feeling. Nice to get it back to back.” Vann (20 points, 10 rebounds) misses two free throws just seconds before his makes. Maurice Hill made one for Kolbe and Ian Gardener tipped in the miss to get Kolbe within 64-63 and Kolbe coach Chris Smith called for timeout with 20.8 seconds left.
Bunnell (18-5) led Kolbe (15-8) 60-49 with 3:48 left.
“They scrambled well and we took a few bad shots,” Yerina said. “Our kids are so sused to letting it go , but in these types of games, you have to do understand, a minute left, 6-point lead, (the shot) doesn’t have to go up.”
Vann made his first two free throws with 17.2 seconds left. Hill answered with one and Yerina called for timeout with 9.8 seconds remaining. Hill then missed the second, Vann was fouled and he made two free throws again to make it a two-possession game with 8.5 seconds left.
“When we are down, for some reason, we put the fire back on and ended up winning games. Tonight it didn’t end up that way,” Kolbe coach Chris Smith said. “We let this team get too many offensive rebounds. You can’t win basketball games when teams shoot the ball, and you reward them by giving them the ball back. You play great defense, you let them shoot and you got to get that rebound.”
Bunnell beat Bethel on its home floor for its first SWC crown in school history last season. Kolbe beat Bunnell in the regular-season matchup between the two SWC finalists this season.
Guards Ryan Pittman and Kendall Streeter each had 15 points for Bunnell. Kolbe had a tough time stopping either.
“Pittman is a tough player. He went through the double-team, stil got to the hole, missed a shot and got the rebound,” Smith said.” He’s a tough kid. That’s what you want in a leader as a point guard.”
Bunnell went on an 18-4 run for the entire second quarter to lead 33-26 at halftime. Tyler Underwood led Kolbe with 18 points while Ian Gardener added 16.
BUNNELL 68, KOLBE CATHEDRAL 64
Kolbe Cathedral 22 4 17 21 – 64
Bunnell 15 18 19 16 – 68
KOLBE CATHEDRAL (64) Mo Hill 7 1-2 15, Tahj Brown 0 0-0 0, Shane Burwell 1 1-2 4, Jordan Tompkins 3 2-4 9, Tyler Underwood 7 2-4 18, Maruins Franeas 1 0-0 2, Ian Gardner 7 2-4 16. Totals: 26 8-16 64
BUNNELL (68) Ryan Pittman 4 7-12 15, Kendell Streeter 5 1-2 15, Aaron Samuel 1 0-2 2, Quadry Bines 0 0-0 0, Aaron Woods 1 0-0 2, Issac Vann 7 6-10 20, Rocky Joseph 1 0-0 2, Donte Peeler 5 2-2 12. Totals: 24 16-28 68 3-point goals: Kolbe Cathedral 4 (Burwell 1, Tompkins 1, Underwood 2); Bunnell 4 (Streeter 4); Records: Kolbe Cathedral 15-8; Bunnell 18-50-0
Notes: Technical foul: Jordan Tompkins, Kolbe.
Updates every minute – View full tournament