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Granby, Farmington play for state championships this weekend

Granby’s James Shelansky (23) had 24 points in the Bears’ semifinal win over Hartford Classical to earn a berth in Saturday’s CIAC Division IV championship game.

It’s been 80 years since the Farmington High boys basketball team played for a state championship.

The Indians will be trying to bring home their first-ever title when they challenge Amistad-New Haven in the CIAC Division III championship game on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

In just their second-ever state tournament appearance, Granby (23-3) will try to bring home another state championship when they face New Canaan in the CIAC Division IV title game on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Granby won their only state title with a double overtime win over Weaver-Hartford in the Class S championship game in 2013. The Rams haven’t played for a state title since 1989 and haven’t brought home a championship since 1962.

Farmington (22-4) last appeared in a CIAC title game in 1939 when they dropped a 39-21 decision to Ellsworth High in South Windsor, a third-year program coached by future UConn mentor Hugh Greer in the Class C final. Two years earlier, the Indians lost to Staples-Westport in the Class C title game, 26-23 in 1937.

Since then, the Indians brought home seven Northwest Conference championships but have had little success in the state tournament having reached the semifinals just four times since 1950.

Farmington did bring home a share of their first-ever Central Connecticut Conference crown in February, sharing the CCC West Patriot Division title with Glastonbury with records of 8-2.

A quick look at this weekend’s contests.

Division IV championship
At Uncasville, Conn.
Who: No. 3 Granby (23-3) vs. No. 4 New Canaan (19-5)
When: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Coaches: New Canaan – Danny Melzer, third year; Granby – Walter Hansen
Championship record: New Canaan 7-2, Granby 1-0

Road to Mohegan Sun: Granby defeated Sheehan, 64-58 (second round); Ellington, 62-58, OT (quarterfinals); Classical, 70-62 (semifinal); New Canaan defeated Griswold, 55-27 (second round); St. Bernard, 57-38 (quarterfinal); St. Joseph, 62-51 (semifinal)

Outlook: Two years ago, New Canaan was 4-16. This year, the Rams went 16-4 and earned a spot in the FCIAC Tournament. With three wins in the Div. IV tournament, the Rams are in the finals for the first time since 1989 and are looking for their first title since 1962. Defense has helped propel the Rams, who beat St. Joseph-Trumbull, 62-51 in the semifinals behind 21 points from Matt Brand and 16 points from Alex Gibbens (five 3-pointers). Luke Rwambuya had 12 points and six rebounds in a 57-38 win over St. Bernard in the quarterfinals with Brand adding 10. Melzer has brought a new intensity to the program that has resulted in a renewed emphasis on off-season preparation for the season.

Granby beat a pair of NCCC rivals and Shelton to earn their second-ever state final berth. In the quarterfinals, the Bears beat Ellington for the third time with a 62-58 win in OT, shaking off a game-tying shot at the buzzer by the Purple Knights. James Shelansky (18 points) and Eliyas Delaire (17) led the Bears. In the semifinals, Granby beat Hartford Classical, 70-62 with Shelansky scoring 24 points and Rowan Heinze scoring 23 with 11 rebounds. Granby trailed by five at the half but raised their game in the second half. The Bears have won 17 of their last 18 games – the only defeat was a four-point loss to Classical on the final day of the regular season that gave the Gladiators the NCCC championship. The Bears whipped Ellington, 50-39, to win their first NCCC Tournament title since 2006 with tournament MVP Delaire scoring 15 points with four 3-point shots.

Of note: New Canaan won state titles in their first seven title appearances with three straight Class C titles (1932-34), three straight Class S titles (1956-58) and a 49-48 win over Plainville in 1962. The Rams lost in the Class LL finals in 1989 to Danbury, 78-76 and in the Class LL finals to Wilbur Cross in 1980, 59-56. … The Rams are a Class LL program in other sports while Granby is a Class M program. … New Canaan had not won a state tournament game since 2008 before this year’s run to the Mohegan Sun. … Granby’s only title appearance came in 2013 when the Bears beat Weaver, 83-81 in double OT for the Class S championship.

Granby’s Dylan Disabella takes a shot in the recent NCCC Tournament championship game.

Division III championship
At Uncasville, Conn.

Who: No. 3 Farmington (22-4) vs. No. 9 Amistad-New Haven (18-6)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Coaches: Farmington – Duane Witter, 21st season; Amistad – Ryan Ott
Championship record: Farmington 0-2; Amistad 0-0

Road to Mohegan Sun: Farmington defeated Staples, 74-51 (second round); Naugatuck, 76-55 (quarterfinal); Prince Tech-Hartford, 72-52 (semifinal); Amistad defeated SMSA-Hartford, 67-43 (first round); Berlin, 70-49 (second round); Shelton, 68-59 (quarterfinal); Torrington, 71-65 (semifinal)

Outlook: With four straight wins including a 71-65 win over Torrington in the semifinals, Amistad-New Haven is in the state finals for the first time in school history. Cyprein Joseph had a game-high 23 points to lead the Wolves in the win over Torrington while sophomore Eli Blackwell had 21 points. The Wolves are not tall but they are quick with three 6-foot guards.

Senior guard Makhi Hawkins leads Farmington, who will have a significant height advantage in the paint with 6-foot-7 sophomore Bube Momah and 6-5 Tyler Cortland. Momah frequently slam dunks the ball to energize the Farmington faithful and his teammates. Hawkins had a game-high 22 points in the win over Staples and a game-high 25 points against Naugatuck. Grayson Herr added 19 against the Greyhounds. In the semifinal win over Prince Tech, Momah led the way with 25 points including a one-handed tomahawk dunk. Three-point sharpshooter Jacob Smith added 22 points. Farmington has a variety of offensive weapons.

Of note: This is the ninth varsity season for the Wolves, who play an independent schedule. The Wolves have won 11 of their last 12 games with their only loss coming in a 73-64 OT loss to Hartford Classical. … Farmington went 17-3 this season  — their best regular season record since 2006-07 when the Indians had back-to-back 17-3 campaigns. The school record for most regular season wins is 19 set when Farmington went 19-0 in 1969. The Tribe lost in the quarterfinals that season. … Twenty-two wins for the Indians is the most since 2007 when Farmington went 22-5.

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 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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