FARMINGTON, February 19 – The Avon High boys basketball finished the regular season on the upswing Monday night. The Falcons rebounded well and outlasted Farmington, 39-35 to win for the sixth time in the last eight games and they took home the Taft Cup trophy for the year.
Avon (12-8, 6-4 CCC West Patriot) will be playing in the CIAC state tournament for the first time since 2015 and has earned a spot in the CCC tournament as well. It is Avon’s first winning campaign in basketball since joining the Central Connecticut Conference in September 2015.
As usual against rival Farmington, it wasn’t easy. Few shots were uncontested. Many were blocked. There were few open paths to the basket.
“Defensively, our kids played great,” Avon coach Kris Pedra said. “We came in here and won a tough, grind-it-out game on the road and that is what good teams do, especially with the state tournament coming up.”
Farmington (10-10, 2-8 CCC West Patriot) nearly erased a 10-point Avon lead in the fourth quarter. The Indians trailed by one with 39 seconds remaining, 33-32 when Jordan Williams drove to the basket and was fouled. He sank the free throw to give the Falcons a 36-32 edge with 23.4 seconds left in the game.
At the other end of the floor, Farmington tried to drive to the basket. Connor Harris made the initial block and the ball went back to Farmington’s Makhi Hawkins, who tried a second shot. But it bounced off the rim, Harris came down with the key offensive rebound and he was fouled.
Harris sank one of two foul shots to stretch the lead to 37-32 with 15 seconds left but Hawkins came back and drained a three-point shot with 8.8 seconds to cut the lead to two points. But the Indians would get no closer. Harris sank another two foul shots with 6.8 seconds and Williams corralled the rebound with two seconds left to seal the victory.
Guard Charlie Reiss led the Falcons with 14 points – his second-highest scoring performance of the season and his best since scoring 15 against Glastonbury in December. “He was the absolute leader for us on the floor tonight,” Pedra said. “He helped settle us down.”
Brett Muni scored eight points for the Falcons while Williams and Harris had six points each. Marek Cierniewski had five points and played well in place of injured starter Riley Welter, who is recovering from a concussion. For Farmington, Jake Sytulek led the way with 12 points.
Avon led 8-6 after one quarter and 14-13 at halftime after Williams drained a three-point shot from the corner with 13.3 seconds left in the second quarter.
In the second half, the Falcons led by as many as 10 points. They were patient offensively and they pulled down a lot of rebounds following Farmington shots.
“We got on the kids about that (rebounding) and they were talking about it,” Pedra said. “Connor Harris was so big for us inside. It was a great team effort on the boards.”
Avon led by just three points, 19-16, midway through the third quarter. But Reiss scored off a fast break that began with a quick outlet pass following a Farmington basket. A minute later, Muni hit a jumper for a 23-16 lead.
With 1:37 left in the quarter, Harris was battling for a loose ball. On his back, he grabbed the ball in the lane and flipped it up to Reiss, who banked it in off the glass for a 25-16 advantage. The Indians hit two free throws with 25 seconds left but Reiss drove to the basket with 8.4 seconds left to give Avon a nine-point lead, 27-18.
The lead got as high as 10 for the Falcons. Ryan Bartkiewicz got the steal and ignited a fast break to Reiss, who scored to give Avon a 31-21 lead with 6:10 remaining in the game.
Farmington got right back in the game with a 9-0 run fueled by three-point shots from Nick Teixeria (2) and Hawkins to cut the lead to one with 2:57 remaining.
The Taft Cup trophy is named after long-time Avon High coach Jim Taft, who led the Falcons to 368 wins, eight NCCC championships and a Class S state title in 1989. He coached Avon from 1978 to 2003. The winner of each Farmington vs. Avon game get to take home the trophy after each respective game. This season, Avon swept the season series against Farmington after the Indians swept the series last winter. … Avon will playing in the CIAC Division III tournament beginning on March 3.
Avon 39, Farmington 35
Avon (12-8) Ryan Bartkiewicz 0-0-0, Brett Muni 4-0-8, Charlie Reiss 6 2-3 14, Marek Cierniewski 2-0-5, Jordan Williams 2 1-1 6, Connor Harris 1 3-4 6. Totals 15 5-7 39
Farmington (10-10) Nick Teixeira 2-0-6, Jacob Dunst 2 2-2 6, Makhi Hawkins 2-0-6, Conor Geary 1 1-2 3, Jacob Smith 1-0-2, Jake Sytulek 3 5-5 12. Totals 8 8-9 35
Three point goals: Cierniewski (A), Williams (A), Harris (A), Teixeira (F) 2, Hawkins (F) 2, Sytulek (F)
CCC West standings
As of Saturday, February 17
|x-Clinched division title|
|Teams play three opponents in their division twice and four opponents in other division once for 10 divisional contests.|
Avon 39, Farmington 35
Southington at Northwest Catholic
Glastonbury at Simsbury