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Defense helps Avon eliminate No. 1 Guilford and earn Div. III semifinal berth

Senior Jordan Williams had a game-high 20 points as Avon beat No. 1 seed Guilford in Saturday night’s Division III tournament game.

GUILFORD, March 10 – The Avon High boys basketball team got off to a quick start in Saturday’s Division III quarterfinal with No. 1 Guilford and grabbed a 10-point lead after the first quarter.

Coupled with some hard nosed defense from the Falcons, No. 9 Avon upset the Indians, 56-51 to advance to the state tournament semifinals for the first time in 13 years – 2005 when the Falcons won their last state championship over Fairfield Warde.

Avon advances to Tuesday’s Division III semifinal where they will face No. 5 Enfield (20-4), who raced past East Lyme, 90-77, on Saturday

“This group of seniors has been so composed,” Avon’s third-year head coach Kris Pedra said. “Throughout this run, they believe in themselves and more importantly, they believe in each other. They believe in making the unselfish play.”

They are also committed to play defense and for three quarters, they shut down Guilford.

“The keys tonight were Connor Harris, Riley Welter and Marek Cierniewski,” Pedra said. “I challenged them to shut down their two best players – (Noah) Rubino and (Sam) Dombrowski. Those two players are really talented but Connor, Riley and Marek were up for the challenge. They played physical, interior defense without fouling.”

The Falcons led by 10 after three quarters but Guilford (21-3) was able to cut the lead to two points, 47-45, with 2:18 remaining. But Avon hit their free throws down the stretch as senior Jordan Williams was 4-for-4 to help squelch the rally.

Williams led all scorers with a game-high 20 points including a pair of three-point goals. Reiss added 10 points while Brett Muni and Harris each scored eight points.

Rubino led Guilford with 14 points while Josh Kraise added 10 and Matt Donlan scored nine points. The Indians were crushed by the loss. “They’re hurt, I’m hurt, and the community and fans are hurt too,” Guilford coach Jeff DeMaio told GametimeCT.com. “This was a special group that had an opportunity to win the whole thing. I firmly believe we had a chance to win it all in Division III and that’s the part that hurts.”

Avon’s next challenge will be Enfield, a quick team that loves to run. The Raiders were led by Jadon Archer with 34 points. The two programs were long-time rivals in the North Central Connecticut Conference before both moved to the CCC in the past three years.

Avon 56, Guilford 51
At Guilford
Avon (56) Jack Hall 2-0-5, Brett Muni 3 1-2 8, Charlie Reiss 4 2-2 10, Marek Cierniewski 0-0-0, Jordan Williams 7 4-4 20, Riley Welter 1 2-3 5, Connor Harris 4-0-8. Totals 16 9-11 56
Guilford (51) Noah Rubino 6 2-6 14, Sam Dombrowski 3 2-4 8, Josh Krause 3 4-5 10, Matt Donlan 3 1-3 9, Ian Slattery 2-0-4, Colin Keuaner 0 4-4 4, James Hyman 1-0-2. Totals 18 13-22 51
Avon (15-9)                              19  10  13  14  — 56
Guilford (21-3)                          9  10  13  19  – 51
Three-point goals: Hall (A), Muni (A), Williams (A) 2, Welter (A); Donlan (G)

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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