BURLINGTON — Wamogo won its third straight Berkshire League Boys Basketball Tournament Friday night with a 74-47 win over Shepaug at Lewis Mills High School.
The Warriors’ first two tournament titles were upsets over the No. 1 seeds. After reaching the Division V CIAC final last year, there was no upset in sight while the same Wamogo team (23-0, 21-0 Berkshire League) sailed through the regular season to its own No. 1 seed.
Still, No. 3 seed Shepaug (14-9; 23-8) had hopes, starting with a nine-point loss to the Warriors in early January. When No. 4 Litchfield held Wamogo to a one-point lead in the first half of Tuesday’s semifinals, anything seemed possible.
Wamogo even obliged the Spartans by starting with an off night in their outside shooting.
“I think it was a little bit nerves,” Wamogo coach Gregg Hunt said. “This is still a big game.”
Nerves can jar shooting but defense is always the first option for a team like Wamogo.
The Warriors had four steals in the first three minutes, three by Ethan Collins, sending Wamogo on a 9-0 opening run with a pair of fast break finishes by Sean Coffey (19 points) and two put-backs by Garrett Sattazahn (21).
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“We needed to start real strong. And we had the opportunity but we didn’t capitalize on it,” Lewis Mills coach Matt Lefevre said.
Shepaug’s early opportunity passed but its willpower didn’t.
Senior forward Ethan Hibbard (12 points), a bull under the basket all game, put Shepaug on the board with a pair of foul shots.
Sophomore guard Owen Hibbard (21 points) hit the game’s first three, together getting the Spartans back in it, 11-5, with two minutes left in the first.
But Lefevre is right; anybody with hopes of getting to Wamogo this year needs to do it early.
After a 15-8 first quarter, any Warrior nerves were gone. The shooting touch was back in the second quarter, with 4 Wamogo threes, including two by Sattazahn on his way to a 12-point period.
Trailing 34-22 at the half, Shepaug’s hopes could still burn on a two-rebound edge on the boards, along with nine points by their sophomore sensation, Hibbard.
Hunt stamped out those hopes in the locker room. Collins and Coffee came out on a rebounding mission, hauling down 11 and 10 rebounds in a total that handed Wamogo a 10-board advantage for the second half.
With second chances removed, the Spartans scored just six points in the third quarter. Collins scored six of his 11 game points and Coffee finished the period with a withering two threes in a row from the left corner.
The score stood 52-28. Shepaug’s hopes were gone. A night that began with subpar shooting ended at 60 percent for the Warriors.
Both teams look forward to next week’s CIAC tournaments. Shepaug, the No. 10 seed in Division V, hosts No. 23 Coginchaug, 8-12 in the Shoreline Conference, Tuesday.
“We’ll continue to play hard,” Lefevre said.
The No. 1 Warriors earn a bye in Division III, then play the winner of a first-round game between No. 16 Shelton and No. 17 Maloney.
“We want the really hard challenges,” said Sattazahn, unperturbed by the CIAC’s bump of the Warriors from Division V to Division III this year.
“We’ll be ready,” Coffey said.
“We’ll probably see bigger kids and changing defenses, but I haven’t seen anyone in Division III we can’t play with if we play well,” Hunt said.
If both Wamogo and No. 5 Torrington win through their quarterfinal games, they’ll meet in the Division III semifinals.