EAST GRANBY, March 6 – The Avon High boys basketball team was having difficulty getting a shot at the basket in Friday night’s NCCC Tournament championship game. Sport Medicine Science Academy was putting pressure on the ball and creating turnovers.
The Tigers limited Avon to just four points in the third quarter and opened up a seven-point lead with 1:02 left in the quarter. SMSA led by seven with 4:32 left in the game.
But playing in their final North Central Connecticut Conference game, the Falcons refused to wilt. Junior Bryan LaChance had a pair of three-point field goals in the final 1:44 and scored a game- and career-high 20 points as Avon beat SMSA, 48-44 to win their ninth NCCC Tournament championship and their first since 2013.
LaChance, the tournament MVP, drained four three-point shots while teammate Tim Patton sank a pair of three-point goals to help the Falcons (18-5) rally. “I have to give Bryan LaChance credit. He hit the shots out there tonight,” Avon coach Chris Vozzolo said. “He stepped up. He’s coming off an injury and has worked his way back into the lineup. Tonight was his night and he shined.”
Lachance deflected praise to his teammates. “It was made easy the way my teammates moved the ball. It just came to me.”
This is Avon’s final season in the NCCC and it was their last basketball game in the league. Next winter, Avon will be playing in the Central Connecticut Conference. The Tigers won their first NCCC championship in February and that included a 10-point win in January over the Falcons – one of eight contests that LaChance missed with a strained hip.
“This was a game of runs and we didn’t give up a big run,” Vozzolo said. “We were having a tough time offensively so we switched up our defense and got a few key turnovers.”
SMSA missed a lot of shots in the paint but they looked on the verge of taking the game over in the first quarter, leading by three, 9-6. But Avon exploded on a 13-2 run, fueled by a pair of three-point shots from LaChance and a steal and two foul shots from Nate Laszewski.
The first quarter was a nightmare for Avon, which shot 1-for-10 from the field. The third quarter wasn’t much better with just four points by Avon. But the Falcons stayed close.
SMSA’s Rashawn Mason, with a team-high 17 points, scored on a one-handed jumper in the lane with 4:32 remaining in regulation to give the Tigers a seven-point lead, 40-33. But Paton drained a three-pointer after some nice passes to cut the lead to four. Mason, who scored on three straight possessions for SMSA, added another basket to push the lead back to six with 4:03 left.
But Laszewski (11 points) sank his own rebound to again cut the lead to four, 42-38 with 3:44 remaining. On SMSA’s next three offensive possessions, they missed a shot and had two turnovers.
“We got away from our game, which is penetrating into the lane,” Tiger coach Milun Mraz said. “(Avon) shot the ball a lot better this time than in our last game. We made some poor decisions defensively at key points in the game.”
On an inbounds play, LaChance got the ball and sank a three-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to one, 42-41 with 1:44 remaining. After another SMSA turnover, LaChance drained a three-pointer to give Avon its first lead since midway through the third quarter with 54 seconds left, 44-42.
Senior Bryan St. Jean added two foul shots with 20.9 seconds remaining and Laszewski sank a pair of foul shots with 5.9 seconds left to secure the win.
“We had it going in the first and third quarter,” SMSA’s Mraz said. “We’ve thrived this year on a full court press and creating turnovers. Our defense helps create our offense.”
Led by St. Jean, the Falcons slowed down a bit in the fourth quarter to reduce the number of turnovers. Ian McDonald and Zach Stirling battled hard inside for rebounds. “Our seniors have led us all year along,” Vozzolo said. “They’re a good strong group.” St. Jean and Stirling are seniors. McDonald is a junior.
In the consolation game, Suffield and Granby cleared the benches in a game that ended without much passion from either side as Suffield prevailed, 39-38. The two teams combined to score just 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Zach Vahre scored his only basket on a one-handed shot with 1:01 left in regulation to snap a 35-35 tie and Sam Pines sank two free throws with 8 seconds remaining to extend the lead to four points. Kevin Bates hit a three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left but that was it for Granby.
Tanner Gibson had a game-high 16 points to lead Granby. Suffield was led by Flynn with 11.
David Eke and Gibson were named to the All-Tournament team along with Flynn, Mason and Dwayne Bernard from SMSA and Laszewski and Lachance from Avon.
Avon previously won NCCC Tournament titles in 2013, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2000, 1998 and 1990. This was SMSA’s first appearance in the NCCC Tournament final.
Avon 48, SMSA 44
At East Granby
Avon (48): Bryan St. Jean 0-2-2, Ian McDonald 1-0-2, Bryan LaChance 7-2-20, Zach Stirling 1-0-2, Tim Patton 2-2-8, Jordan Williams 1-1-3, Nate Laszewski 2-7-11, Alex Zacchio 0-0-0. Totals 14 14-48
SMSA (44): Dwayne Bernard 3-1-7, Rashawn Mason 8-1-17, Ryan Rivera 0-2-2, Daunte Brickley 1-1-3, Jon Hernandez 0-2-2, Jon Mikal Riley 1-0-2, Lorenzo Aikens 1-0-2, Daquan Carr 2-3-9. Totals 16-10-44
Avon (18-5) 6 21 4 17 – 48
SMSA (20-3) 9 13 14 8 – 44
Three-point goals: Carr (S) 2, Lachance (A) 4, Patton (A) 2
Suffield 39, Granby 38
At East Granby
Granby (38): Ben Eke 2-0-5, Connor Field 0-0-0, Luca Piatti 0-0-0, Tyler Disabella 0-1-1, Jaiden Delaire 2-0-5, Chris Tweedale 2-0-4, R.J. Mooney 0-0-0, Kevin Bates 1-0-3, Conner Fallon 0-0-0, Duke Lange 0-0-0. Tanner Gibson 6-4-16, David Eke 1-0-3, Fred Moffa 0-1-1. Totals 14-6-38
Suffield (39): Gezim Ramadani 1-0-3, Jacob Arruda 0-0-0, Zach Vahre 1-0-2, Robert Howard 3-0-7, Mike Carucci 1-2-4, Josh Baskin 0-0-0, Sam Flynn 4-2-11, Matt Clark 1-0-2, Ryan Costello 0-0-0, Austin Mankouski 1-0-3, Ben Nigro 1-1-3, Andrew Moskowicz 1-0-2. Totals 14-7-39
Granby (17-6) 14 5 13 6 – 38
Suffield (15-8) 16 8 11 4 – 39
Three-point goals: Ben Eke (G), Delaire (G), Bates (G), David Eke (G); Ramadani (S), Howard (S), Flynn (S), Mankouski (S)
NCCC regular season standings: SMSA 16-2, Granby 15-3, Avon 14-4, Suffield 13-5, Hartford Classical 13-5, Canton 11-7, Windsor Locks 10-8, Somers 10-8, Bolton 10-8, Enfield 9-9, Ellington 8-10, East Windsor 6-12, Stafford 3-15, East Granby 2-16, Coventry 0-18
All Conference players: David Eke, Granby; Tanner Gibson, Granby; Rachone Preston, Enfield; Cam Daley, Canton; Tim Flynn, Hartford Classical; Nate Laszewski, Avon, Alex Zacchio, Avon; Nick Fersch, East Granby; Jack Connelly, Ellington; Dwayne Bernard, SMSA; Rashawn Mason, SMSA; Jack Hosteler, Somers; Alex Hoss, Stafford; Sam Flynn, Suffield; Reed Lynch, Windsor Locks
2015 NCCC Tournament
Thursday, February 26
No. 7 Windsor Locks 74, No. 10 Ellington 55
Friday, February 27
No. 6 Canton 55, No. 11 Bolton 54
No. 8 Somers 55, No. 9 Enfield 54
Saturday, February 28
No. 1 Sports Medical Sciences Academy 73, Somers 44
No. 4 Suffield 47, No. 5 Hartford Classical 45
No. 3 Avon 75, Canton 55
No. 2 Granby 55, Windsor Locks 38
SMSA 54, Ellington 42
Avon 39, Granby 37
At East Granby
Finals: Avon 48, SMSA 44
Consolation: Suffield 39, Granby 38
All-Tournament team: David Eke, Granby; Tanner Gibson Granby; Sam Flynn, Suffield, Rashawn Mason, SMSA; Dwayne Bernard, SMSA, Nate Laszewski, Avon, Bryan Lachance (MVP), Avon