— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) March 8, 2019
MERIDEN — Ty Sullivan helped devise many defensive game plans as an assistant coach at Hillhouse High. They were normally designed to stop, or slow down, the opponent’s leading scorer.
Sullivan has continued doing so in this, his first year as head coach at West Haven, Thursday night’s mission was to try and create as much difficulty as possible for Wilcox Tech senior DeJuan Ransom, the all-time leading scorer in the city of Meriden.
The Westies threw several defenders at Ransom throughout the game. Sometimes it worked, sometimes, Ransom was still able to score.
It worked long enough, and well enough for No. 13 seed West Haven to win this Division III second-round game 68-63 over No. 4 seed Wilcox Tech at Maloney High.
“Ransom is a heckuva player, one of the better players we have seen this year,” Sullivan said. “He’s a strong kid, I like him a lot. I have a lot of respect for players of that caliber.”
With West Haven leading 66-63, Tyrese Hargrove, one of those defenders, came to double Ransom and picked the senior’s pocket at midcourt. Hargrove was fouled with 12.4 seconds left.
“We needed a big steal. I wanted to do something for my team and get that W,” Hargrove said. “I saw fear. I felt like he (Ransom) wanted me to have it.”
Said Sullivan: “As soon as he put his head down to attack, we were sending the double. … Jordan Berrios (the original defender) did a heckuva job on (Ransom) in the fourth quarter.”
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) March 7, 2019
Then the junior guard stepped to the free-throw line and made both free throws.
“I feel good helping bring my team to the quarterfinals,” Hargrove said.
Wilcox Tech committed a turnover on its next possession and the Westies advanced to their first state tournament quarterfinal since 1996. West Haven will play at No. 5 Torrington in the quarterfinals Monday night at 7 p.m.
“I didn’t see this coming. These guys have exceeded my expectations,” Sullivan said. “I think they have exceeded the expectations of the community, the city of West Haven. I’m just proud of them Now we will try and continue to ride this wave and see how far we can go.”
Ransom felt he got fouled on the steal. It ended a run for Wilcox Tech (17-6) that included a spot in the Division IV tournament semifinals last year.
“Getting to the quarters almost could have almost been like getting to the semis in Division IV,” Farkas said. “We had it in us and gave a shot at it.”
Said Ransom: “It (the loss) was basically my fault. I didn’t tell my teammates to set screens for me to get open.”
Ransom finished with 27 points. He finishes his career with 2,154 points, now 13th on the all-time CIAC list. He is the only player from a technical school to surpass 2,000 points.
“No one thought we would be able to do this,” Ransom said.
Said Farkas: “He stepped into the starting lineup very, very early. D.J., John (Soto) and Bryce (McClendon, the other two seniors), the three of them together coming in as freshman and playing varsity right away, where they have taken us. … for them to kind of put us on the map, it’s been a great run for the three of them.”
West Haven (14-9) led virtually throughout the game and the entire second half. It’s largest lead was eight, 49-41, in the third quarter.
But the Indians were able to hang in, never trailing by more than five in the final quarter.
Sullivan said he threw more defenses at Ransom in the second half to limit the chance for the Indians to adjust.
“(Ransom) probably got a little tired down the stretch. That’s probably were those turnovers came in,” Sullivan said. “We knew he would score the ball, that’s what he does. Those steals at the end of the game, those are fatigue plays what we liked to call them.”
Mufee Cooper led the Westies with 17 points while Malcolm Duncanson added 15. Quannel Straughter scored 14 points, including two big baskets down the stretch to keep West Haven in front.
“In the second half, they tried a box-and-one on (Ransom),” Farkas said. “They did a good with it. I thought (Ransom) handled himself pretty well. He got some teammates some looks and he created for himself also. But with a box and one, it takes away a big option for us. It did hold us back a little.”
McClendon added 18 points for Wilcox Tech.