GRANBY – Less than 24 hours had passed since the Avon High boys basketball team had been on the floor in the Granby High gymnasium. Just a few hours earlier, the Falcons had survived a three overtime marathon with a victory over Enfield to earn an opportunity to play Granby for the NCCC Tournament championship.
The Falcons showed no signs of exhaustion with an energetic effort that blew the regular season champion Bears out of their own gym in a 71-36 victory Thursday night before a sellout crowd of over 750 fans. Another 50 fans watched a live video feed from the school cafeteria.
“They played with force. They played with energy. They played with passion,” Granby coach Walter Hansen said. “We were a couple of steps slower tonight. All the credit goes to Avon and their team.”
Not only did Avon avenge a tough 48-45 loss to Granby about two weeks ago but the Falcons won their first NCCC Tournament championship since 2009 and their eighth NCCC Tournament title. That loss to Granby was the deciding factor in this year’s league championship race. Granby (17-3, 15-1 NCCC) won the title by a game over Avon (16-4, 14-2 NCCC).
“We had a goal to go after them, attack and put pressure on them,” Avon coach Chris Vozzolo said. “Our guys were ready for it. We came out and we were good from the start. They were aggressive and they attacked. More importantly, they played defense and rebounded.”
Avon (19-4) came out on fire. Sean Herrmann scored nine of his 15 points in the first quarter on three 3-point goals. Tournament MVP Patrick McKearney scored inside on a rebound and Brandon Feinberg scored in the lane as Avon raced out to an early 15-4 lead.
Granby cut the lead to eight on a three-point shot from Brett Buser but on the next Granby possession, McKearney stole the ball and raced in for a 1-handed slam dunk. At the other end of the floor, he blocked a shot and then scored on a hook shot in the lane for a 19-7 lead.
“We didn’t play well right from the start,” said Granby’s Carlin Champion, who scored five points. “Some of us came out scared. This is a big stage to play on and (Avon) came to play.”
The second quarter wasn’t much better for Granby (19-4). The Bears scored just one field goal and five points in the quarter and trailed 40-14 at halftime. For Avon, McKearney had two nice baskets in the low post while Feinberg and Marioni each drained a three-point shot.
“We tried to focus on defense a lot and to shut down their offense,” Herrmann said. “We played terrific defense tonight.” Only one Granby player got into double figures with sophomore Tanner Gibson scoring a team-high 14 points. Buser scored seven while Mike Noyes added six points.
Avon received a balanced effort. Marioni scored a game-high 18 points with three 3-point shots while Herrmann scored 15 with four 3-point baskets. Brandon Feinberg scored 14 points while McKearney chipped in with 13. McKearney and Marioni were named to the All-Tournament team.
“This is a very satisfying win,” Marioni said. “It was a heartbreaking loss the last time we were when they beat us and we saw them storm the court. I had this game marked on my calendar.”
The lead got as high as 37 points in the third quarter. The winning margin of 35 points was the largest in a NCCC championship game in at least 30 years, besting a 32-point win by Enfield a year ago over Coventry.
“It was very satisfying to win,” Vozzolo said, “because I know what a great team they are and I know how dangerous they can be and the great players that they have.”
Avon’s win came on the heels of a thrilling triple OT win over Enfield, 81-73 in the tournament semifinals as McKearney scored a game-high 23 points. Marioni had 21 points while Herrmann chipped in with 19 points, including five 3-point shots. Enfield had ten 3-points shots to stay in the game.
NOTES: Tanner Gibson and Brett Buser from Granby earned spots on the All-Tournament team. … Avon’s next game is a first round contest in the Class L tournament on Tuesday against neighbor Farmington (9-11). The Falcons will host the contest, the third meeting of the year for the two teams. … Granby has a first round bye in the Class S tournament and will meet the winner of East Windsor and East Hampton on Thursday, March 7.
Avon 71, Granby 36
Avon (71) Ryan Marioni 6-3-18, Sean Herrmann 5-1-15, Brandon Feinberg 6-1-14, Patrick McKearney 5-1-13, Brad Fisher 1-0-2, Sam Flaxman 1-0-2, Justin Reichler 1-1-3, Will DiStefano 2-0-4, Alex Zacchio 0-0-0, Jake Sartain 0-0-0, Jared Rosenblatt 0-0-0, Zach Stirling 0-0-0, Jordan Levine 0-0-0, Matt Reagan 0-0-0. Totals 27-9-71
Granby (36) Zach Quinn 0-0-0, Dawson Tefft 0-0-0, Mike Noyes 1-4-6, Curt Field 1-0-2, Carlin Champion 1-3-5, Brett Buser 2-2-7, Tanner Gibson 5-1-14, Caleb McMullin 0-2-2, David Echo 0-0-0. Totals 10-13-36
Avon (19-4) 19 21 17 14 – 71
Granby (19-4) 9 5 7 15 – 36
Three-point goals: Marioni (A) 3, Herrmann (A) 4, Feinberg (A), Buser (G), Gibson (G) 2
2013 NCCC Tournament
Avon 81, Enfield 73, 3 OT
Granby 67, Coventry 62
Avon 61, Somers 30
Coventry 76, Ellington 56
Granby 60, Stafford 54
Enfield 52, Suffield 47
Suffield 45, Canton 30
Somers 60, East Granby 45
Stafford 53, East Windsor 52
Recent NCCC Tournament championship games
2013: Avon 71, Granby 36
2012: Enfield 67, Coventry 35
2011: Enfield 71, Avon 52
2010: Enfield 43, Ellington 39
2009: Avon 71, Canton 55
2008: Coventry 56, Avon 52
2007: Avon 59, Granby 52
2006: Granby 45, Tolland 43
2005: Avon 58, Enfield 40