AVON, February 21 – It doesn’t take too much to amp up the emotion when Farmington and Avon meet on the basketball court.
Many of the players know each other. They’ve played together and against each other throughout the year. Some were posing for photos together after the game.
The two teams have struggled to win this year. Avon came into the game with seven wins while Farmington had eight. The Falcons needed the victory to secure a spot in the CIAC’s newly-expanded 32-team Class L tournament.
And for a few seconds, Avon had that victory within their grasp.
The Falcons erased an eight-point, fourth quarter Farmington lead and went ahead when Jordan Williams drove to the basket with 12.3 seconds remaining and scored. He was fouled and sank a foul shot to complete the three-point play and give Avon a two-point advantage.
Farmington took the ball and found an open Kevin Dunst, who drained a deep three-point shot with 1.6 seconds remaining to lift the Indians to a thrilling 46-45 win over Avon in the regular season finale for both teams.
Dunst’s game-winning shot was one of nine three-point shots that Farmington sank in the game. The Indians hit more shots from three point range than two-point range (8).
Not only did Farmington (9-11) keep the Taft Cup but they kept the Falcons (7-13) from playing in the Class L tournament. New Fairfield (7-13), Joel Barlow (7-13) beat out Avon for berths in the 32-team event based on a stronger strength of schedule. The Rebels beat Kolbe Cathedral Tuesday night, 51-43.
“This rivalry has been so great over the year,” an exhausted Farmington coach Duane Witter said. “Most recently, Avon has gotten the best of us. What a great game for the spectators. I’m happy for our kids to be a part of this. Neither team deserved to lose. Avon certainly played well enough to win and deserved to win. It was a great, great high school game.”
Avon led by four, 28-24 with 5:01 left in the third quarter on a nice drive to the basket by Charlie Reiss. But Farmington took a four-point lead, 34-30, on a 10-2 surge. The highlight of the big run was a three-pointer from Ryan Chaves, an rebound by Farmington after a missing Avon shot, a quick pass up the floor and a layup by Jake Sytulek – five points in 15 seconds.
Farmington extended their lead to eight, 38-30, with 5:45 left in regulation.
But Williams helped bring Avon back into the game. He sank four free throws and drove the baseline for two points with 4:37 remaining to cut the lead to two, 38-36. The Falcons tied the game on a basket from Riley Welter with a nice assist from Williams with 3:30 left in regulation.
“Jordan was great,” Avon coach Kris Pedra said. “He made some plays and we got the (defensive) stops we needed.”
Farmington took a 41-38 lead with 2:00 left on a three-pointer from Chaves. After Welter sank a foul shot with 1:38 remaining, the Indians turned the ball over on a poor pass. Williams drained a three-point shot with 1:02 left to give Avon a 42-41 lead. Again, Chaves gave Farmington the lead driving to the basket with 28 seconds left for a 43-42 advantage.
Williams three-point play gave Avon a 45-43 lead with 12.3 seconds to play.
“We really felt one of the keys to the game was making the extra pass,” Witter said. “Our team was willing to make the extra pass and we got some wide open shots.”
Sytulek made the pass to Dunst, who put up his game-winning shot in the closing seconds of the game.
“He owns that moment for the rest of his life,” Witter said. “No one can ever take that away from him. For Farmington basketball, it doesn’t get any better than that. He’ll be a hero in this rivalry forever.”
Dunst led the Indians with 14 points and three 3-point shots while Chaves had 11 points and three 3-point shots. Sytulek, who had 37 in a win over Avon in January, finished with just eight points.
Avon was led by Williams with 22 points and a pair of three-point shots. Connor Harris had 12 and a pair of three-point shots for the Falcons, who had two starters – Henry Schrecengost and Ryan McGuire – out with injuries. Williams played with an injured thumb.
“We were just not able to get over that hump and finish,” Pedra said. “That has been our problem all year.”
There were some nice victories including a 68-55 win over NCCC champion Canton and a first-ever win over New Britain, 56-49. But there was a three-point loss to Glastonbury on January 30 and a close loss to Southington, 60-54 earlier this month.
But Pedra is upbeat. They had just one senior on the team – Robby Zacchio. Virtually the entire team will return next winter. Six juniors and three sophomore ate up a majority of the playing time this winter.
“I’m proud of the team,” he said. “We’ll have to work on those little things to be able to finish (games) next year.”
Before Farmington swept the Falcons this season, Avon had won three straight over the Indians in 2015 and 2016. … Avon picked up a forfeit win over Bulkeley due to the Bulldogs using an ineligible player. The Bulldogs beat Avon in December, 61-51.
Farmington 46, Avon 45
Farmington (46) Nick Teixeira 0-0-0, Jalen Robinson 0-1-1, Ryan Chaves 4-0-11, Isaiah McKinley-Jones 0-0-0, Brendan Walsh 3-0-7, Clayton Herr 2-0-5, Kevin Dunst 5-1-14, Jake Sytulek 3-1-8, Alex Pittsley 0-0-0. Totals 17-3-46
Avon (45) Robbie Zacchio 0-0-0, Charlie Reiss 2-0-4, Jordan Williams 6 8-8 22, Riley Welter 2 3-4 7, Brent Muni 0-0-0, Marek Cierniewski 0-0-0, Connor Harris 5-0-12. Totals 11 11-12 45
Farmington (9-11) 9 10 17 10 – 46
Avon (7-13) 9 9 12 15 — 45
Three-point goals: Chaves (F) 3, Walsh (F), Herr (F), Dunst (F) 3, Sytulek (F), Williams (A) 2, Harris (A) 2