Laszewski’s last-second basket helps Avon beat Granby, move into NCCC final

Avon sophomore Nate Laszewski puts the ball in off basket with 2.9 seconds remaining to give Avon a 39-37 in the NCCC Tournament semifinals Wednesday in Hartford.

Avon sophomore Nate Laszewski puts the ball in off basket with 2.9 seconds remaining to give Avon a 39-37 in the NCCC Tournament semifinals Wednesday in Hartford.

HARTFORD, March 4 – The Avon High boys basketball will play for a title in its final North Central Connecticut Conference game. The Falcons grabbed a spot in the NCCC Tournament championship game Wednesday night when sophomore Nate Laszewski scored with 2.9 seconds left to give Avon a hard-fought 39-37 win over Granby. 

Avon (17-5) will face regular season champion Sport Medicine Science Academy (SMSA), which earned a spot in the NCCC Tournament final for the first time ever with a 54-42 win over Suffield. The championship game will Friday night at 7:15 p.m. at a neutral site. Granby (17-5) will play Suffield (14-8) in the consolation game at 5:30 p.m. 

Avon beat Granby for the third time this season and for the second consecutive game, the two teams played stiff defense that inhibited both squads. Nearly two weeks ago, the Falcons outlasted Granby 44-42. “We know every time we play them it will be a defensive game,” Avon coach Chris Vozzolo said. “We have to match them. I’m proud of our defensive efforts. It was a grind it out game and grinded out possessions.” Continue Reading

Fans can vote on 10 unique nicknames for new Hartford baseball team

Rock Cats logoThe New Britain Rock Cats are holding a contest to select their new nickname once the Eastern League baseball club moves to Hartford in a little over 13 months in April 2016. Fans have until March 11 to vote for their three favorite nicknames at www.hartfordplaysball2016.com. The selection committee received nearly 6,000 entries over the past two weeks.

Most are unique and some make you scratch your head. We’re providing you with all 10 proposed nicknames and the explanation that goes with each name. Continue Reading

Simsbury’s Fernandes wins State Open title in overtime

Simsbury's Keith Fernandes gets a two-point takedown in overtime to beat Emmett LiCastri of Immaculate/Joel Barlow and win the State Open title at 145 pounds.

Simsbury’s Keith Fernandes gets a two-point takedown in overtime to beat Emmett LiCastri of Immaculate/Joel Barlow and win the State Open title at 145 pounds.

NEW HAVEN, Feb. 28 – The match nearly ended with 11 seconds left in regulation. Tied at 3-3, Simsbury’s Keith Fernandes was near the edge of the mat when Emmet LiCastri of Immaculate/Joel Barlow nearly got a takedown with 11 seconds remaining.

But the two wrestlers rolled out of bounds and a few seconds later, the 145-pound bout for the State Open championship went into overtime.

That’s were Fernandes won a State Open championship. When LiCastri hesitated for a second, Fernandes seized the moment and spun behind LiCastri and tilted his shoulders toward the mat. All Fernandes needed was the two points for the takedown and the celebration began after his 5-3 overtime decision Saturday night at the Floyd Little Athletic Center at Hillhouse High.Continue Reading

Avon’s Bonalumi takes 3rd at State Open, earns berth to New England tournament

Avon's Gino Bonalumi tries to escape from Farmington's Vinny Stevens at the State Open.

Avon’s Gino Bonalumi tries to escape from Farmington’s Vinny Stevens at the State Open.

NEW HAVEN, Feb. 28 – Avon senior wrestler Gino Bonalumi doesn’t score a lot of points on the mat. It hasn’t hindered success this season.

Bonalumi finished third at Saturday’s State Open wrestling championships with a one-point victory in the quarterfinals and a pair of triple overtime decisions in the consolation bracket.

“He doesn’t score a lot of points,” Avon coach John McLaughlin said. “That’s his style. He waits for his opponents, gets his escape or holds them down. He’s very effective at it.”

Bonalumi earned an invitation to this weekend’s New England wrestling championships in North Andover, Mass., as the Falcons finished tied for 35th at the Open. Junior Jack St. Onge (145) went 2-2 at the State Open while junior Anthony Tripodi (106) went 1-2. Johnny Oh (120) qualified to wrestle at the State Open but was unable to participate after suffering a concussion in practice during the week.Continue Reading

Smith has goal, assist in Sharks’ debut

Avon native Ben Smith had a goal and an assist in his first game with the San Jose Sharks Monday night in a 4-0 win over Montreal.

Avon native Ben Smith had a goal and an assist in his first game with the San Jose Sharks Monday night in a 4-0 win over Montreal.

SAN JOSE, Calif., March 2 – It was a whirlwind day for Avon native Ben Smith Monday. 

Smith participated in a morning skate in Chicago with the Blackhawks, found out he was traded to the San Jose Sharks, grabbed some clothes and flew across the country to play in San Jose’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. Smith scored a goal and had an assist in San Jose’s 4-0 victory. 

“I don’t think too many guys take a pregame skate half a country away, land, throw your gear on and have that kind of game,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan told Reuters. “That’s speaks volumes about Ben’s character.” 

It was Smith’s first goal since Dec. 20. Smith said, “You want to come in and show you can help and try to find a way to give that team a boost. It starts shift by shift trying to do the small things that can uplift a team.” Continue Reading

Avon’s Ben Smith traded to the San Jose Sharks

Chicago's Ben Smith celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks Friday night in Chicago.

Avon native Ben Smith, 26, was traded by Chicago to San Jose on Monday.

Avon native Ben Smith will be playing hockey on the West Coast. Smith was traded by the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday to the San Jose Sharks for forward Andrew Desjardins and a conditional seventh round draft pick. 

Smith, playing in his second full season with the Blackhawks, has scored just five goals and four assists in 61 games. One of the team’s top penalty killers, he hasn’t scored a point in his last 28 games. His last goal came on December 20 against Columbus. A year ago, he had 14 goals and 12 assists. Continue Reading

In front of energized crowd in Hartford, Huskies beat No. 21 SMU

HARTFORD, March 1 — For a few hours on Sunday afternoon, we went back in time. A sellout crowd in Hartford buzzed with excitement. A marquee opponent with a legendary coach roamed the visitors’ sideline. Two tough teams played a quality brand of basketball that was exciting and intense. And UConn looked like the defending national champion.

Ten years ago, it would have described a UConn game against Syracuse. On Sunday, the opponent was No. 21 SMU and the underdog Huskies prevailed with an 81-73 victory to keep their slim NCAA Tournament hopes flickering. For more, click on the video highlights above or read the game summary from our friends at A Dime Back.

Rose and Grabowski — life-long friends on and off the court

Canton's Gabby Rose, left, and Jacquie Grabowski.

Canton’s Gabby Rose, left, and Jacquie Grabowski.

Seniors Gabby Rose and Jacquie Grabowski are both 5-foot-7 and play on the Canton High girls basketball team, which earned a share of its first North Central Connecticut Conference championship since 1999 in February.

They’ve known each other since kindergarten and have been playing basketball together since third grade. They’ll be playing in the CIAC Class S tournament on Thursday at 7 p.m. when the Warriors host either Kolbe Cathedral from Bridgeport or Windham Tech.

Learn more about these two friends from our friends at the Canton Compass.

Avon swimmers dominate at Splash Classic with ninth straight championship

Avon won the Splash Classic for the ninth straight season with a dominating performance Saturday.

Avon won the Splash Classic for the ninth straight season with a dominating performance Saturday.

PLAINVILLE, Feb. 27 – Girls on the Avon High boys swimming team got their chance to shine Saturday at the annual Splash Classic swim meet, the unofficial state championship meet for girls that compete during the boys swim season. 

And once again, Avon’s performance was bright. Three Falcon relays set school and meet records as Avon captured the Splash Classic championship for the ninth consecutive year. Avon won seven of the meet’s 12 events as the Falcons nearly doubled the score of second place Northwestern Regional, 366 to 187. Simsbury was third with 153 points. 

“We had some wonderful swims,” Avon High coach Diana Cesaro said. ”Every girl on the team swam fast and it was a great team effort. We had so many personal bests. These girls worked so hard to get here and hopefully, some will swim even faster in the Class M (boys) championship meets.” Continue Reading

Avon takes command early to oust Canton from NCCC Tournament

Canton's James Treacy finds his path of the basket blocked by Avon's Nate Laszewski (34) in Saturday night's NCCC Tournament game in Avon.

Canton’s James Treacy finds his path of the basket blocked by Avon’s Nate Laszewski (34) in Saturday night’s NCCC Tournament game in Avon. (Photo courtesy John Fitts, Canton Compass)

AVON, February 28 – OK, this was the final time that the Canton and Avon High boys basketball team played as conference rivals. Really. 

Avon eliminated Canton from the NCCC Tournament Saturday night, 73-55, behind solid shooting performances from freshman Jordan Williams and sophomore Nate Laszewski, who scored 22 and 21 points, respectively. 

No. 3 Avon (16-5) sank six three-point shots in the game and moves onto Tuesday’s NCCC Tournament semifinals. They will host No. 2 Granby (17-4) on Tuesday night. Top-ranked SMSA (19-2) will host No. 4 Suffield (14-7) in the other semifinal contest. The championship and consolation game are on Thursday, March 5. Continue Reading

Avon girls end NCCC era with another championship

The Avon High girls basketball is all smiles after winning the NCCC Tournament championship Thursday.

The Avon High girls basketball is all smiles after winning the NCCC Tournament championship Thursday.

HARTFORD, February 26 – In their final game as a member of the North Central Connecticut Conference, the Avon High girls basketball team wanted to go out with a victory. 

The Falcons, who shared the league championship with Canton, won their 12th NCCC Tournament title Thursday night with a 60-46 win over Bolton at Sport Medicine Science Academy. It was sweet revenge for Avon, which coughed up a 13-point lead in a regular season loss at home to the Bulldogs. 

“We wanted to play Bolton,” said Avon senior Shannon Curry, the tournament’s most valuable player. “We all wanted to play Bolton. We wanted another stab at them. And we got them.” 

Canton erased a 10-point deficit against Enfield and tied the game for the first time with 18.7 seconds remaining but Raider freshman Mary Baskerville scored in the lane with 1.7 seconds left to lift Enfield to a 56-54 win over the Warriors in the tournament consolation game.

Curry had a game-high 19 points, including 13 points in the fourth quarter to spark the Falcons. Avon led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter but Bolton (19-4) had cut the lead to five as the fourth quarter began. Curry started the quarter with a steal and ran the length of the floor for a layup. On Avon’s next possession, she drove to the basket and scored off a nice feed from Michaela Marcus. Continue Reading

Seven ECC schools interested in possibly joining the NCCC

ECC graphicThe North Central Connecticut Conference could be changing in the coming years. 

Marc Allard of the Norwich Bulletin is reporting that Woodstock Academy from the Eastern Connecticut Conference has already applied for admission to the NCCC. And athletic directors from another six ECC schools – Lyman Memorial, Windham High, Plainfield, Griswold, Killingly and Tourtellotte in Thompson – will be sending applications to the league with the possibility of forming an eastern division of the NCCC. 

This is Avon’s final year in the league. The Falcons will begin play in the Central Connecticut Conference in September. And Enfield’s days in the NCCC are numbered. Enfield is merging with Fermi and the combined school will eventually play in the CCC, taking Fermi’s spot. 

The ECC schools are a long, long drive away for teams such as Canton, which would be the western-most school in the league. However, many of the ECC schools are a lot closer to Stafford, Somers, Bolton and Coventry. Read more from Marc Allard on the situation in the Eastern Connecticut Conference and comments from NCCC league president Damian Frassinelli of Stafford.

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Former Avon coach Quinion chosen to lead Northwest Catholic grid squad

Former Avon High football coach Brett Quinion has been hired as the new coach at Northwest Catholic in West Hartford.

Former Avon High football coach Brett Quinion, shown in the 2012 campaign, has been hired as the new coach at Northwest Catholic in West Hartford.

Former Avon High football coach Brett Quinion is returning to the sideline. Northwest Catholic in West Hartford announced that they hired Quinion to replace long-time coach Mike Tyler, who retired from coaching in December.

Quinion spent 10 years at Avon High leading the Falcons to five Pequot Conference Uncas Division championships and three CIAC playoff berths before stepping down following the 2012 campaign. He was 68-37 at Avon – the second most wins in school history. Only Quinion’s high school coach at Avon — Glenn McLellan (130) — has more career victories.

“I consider it a great honor and privilege to be coaching football at Northwest Catholic High School,” Quinion said. “Coach Tyler and his program have been a model of excellence and consistency. We will strive to represent our school well and continue to keep the Northwest Catholic tradition going.”Continue Reading

Avon, Bolton set to play again in NCCC Tournament final

Avon's Abby Laszewski is defended by Enfield's Mary Baskerville in Tuesday night's NCCC Tournament semifinal game in Avon.

Avon’s Abby Laszewski is defended by Enfield’s Mary Baskerville in Tuesday night’s NCCC Tournament semifinal game in Avon.

CANTON – The Avon High girls basketball team continues to integrate 6-foot-3 junior Abby Laszewski back into the lineup. Laszewski scored a game-high 20 points including nine in the second quarter as the Falcons moved into the NCCC Tournament championship game with a 60-45 semifinal win over Enfield Tuesday night. 

The Falcons, who shared the league championship with Canton, will face Bolton, who will be making its second-ever appearance in Thursday’s NCCC final at SMSA in Hartford at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs led from virtually start to finish Tuesday to beat the Warriors, 53-47 in the other semifinal contest in Canton. 

Canton led just once with 1:15 remaining in the game when sophomore Emily Briggs sank a pair of free throws to give the Warriors a one-point lead. But Bolton junior Jessica Larsh was outstanding on the foul line sinking eight free throws in the final minute to lift the Bulldogs (19-3). 

Canton and Enfield will meet Thursday night at 5:30 p.m. in the tournament consolation game. Continue Reading

Canton’s Carey takes sixth at Class S tournament

Canton's Sam Beadle has Griswold's James Miller on his back at the Class S tournament. Beadle pinned Miller in 44 seconds.

Canton’s Sam Beadle has Griswold’s James Miller on his back at the Class S tournament Saturday at Haddam-Killingworth. Beadle pinned Miller in 44 seconds.

CANTON – It’s been a challenging season for the Canton High wrestling team. Illness and injuries wreaked havoc all season long. The Warriors started out with 16 wrestlers and at the end there were just five wrestlers competing at the Class S tournament.

“It was a tough year with injuries,” head coach Josh Kaplan said .”Two guys broke their hands in the first few weeks of the season.” And it didn’t stop in February. Noah Korner, who finished third in the NCCC Tournament at 145 pounds suffered a concussion in practice the day before the Class S tournament began.Continue Reading