CANTON, Dec. 30, 2022 – Before embarking into the challenge of play in the Central Connecticut Conference, Lewis Mills faced off with a long-time rival from their pre-CCC days in the finals of Friday’s Litchfield Hills Holiday Classic basketball tournament.
The Spartans used defensive pressure to turn a two-point lead into an advantage that swelled as high as 11 points to beat Wamogo-Litchfield, 51-49 and win the tournament championship at Canton High.
Tournament MVP Jon Schibi scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Spartans (3-1) past Wamogo, a squad that Mills battled for years in the Berkshire League before Mills left in September 2019. In the tournament consolation game, Suffield beat host Canton, 45-38 behind 17 points from Michael Coggins.
Lewis Mills had a two-point lead at halftime but opened the third quarter with a 10-2 surge to take a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter. Connor Evans had two baskets in the surge with Schibi, Charlie Joiner and Connor McAtee also scoring baskets. Three of the five baskets came after pulling down offensive rebounds.
“In the second half, we came out and applied some (defensive) pressure and we started pick up a little bit full court,” Mills coach Ryan Raponey said. “We created turnovers and got some easy baskets but we also moved the ball very well on offense and that created some good looks for us.”
Mills led by as many as 11 points early in the fourth quarter but Wamogo (3-1) refused to go away.
After teammate Carter Nordland drained a three-point shot, Wamogo’s Preston Courdeau sank a pair of free throws with 2:53 remaining to cut the lead to four points, 44-40. But Mills extended the lead back to six when Jack Stanislaw took a nice feed in the lane from Charlie Joiner with 2:04 remaining.
The lead swelled to eight, 48-40, when Stanislaw took another nice feed from Joiner with 1:39 left but Wamogo refused to yield.
Nordland hit two free throws with 1:28 left and Justin Ferrer drained a three-point shot with 51.2 seconds to cut the Mills lead to four, 49-45. Stanislaw had a free throw for Mills with 1:11 remaining.
Mills led by six with 39.1 seconds remaining when Nordland drove to the basket for a score, cutting the lead to four, 51-47 with 30.5 seconds left.
With 5.3 seconds remaining, Wamogo’s Nordland was fouled attempting a three-point shot. He sank the first two of three shots to cut the lead to two. His third foul shot bounced off the rim and was rebounded by the Warriors, who passed it out to Anthony Turtaro but his three-point shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
Nordland finished with a game-high 21 points while Ferrer added 10 points for Wamogo.
“This tournament is great,” Raponey said. “It always gives us a good challenge. These teams are so well coached and they play so hard that there is nothing easy for us. We have to go out there and execute all the time.
“But the big thing for us, it is much better to learn when you win than learning from a loss. It feels better,” he said with a smile.
Canton (1-3) played better in the non-league loss to Suffield but dropped their third straight game. Brandon Powell, who was named to the All-Tournament team, finished with a team-high 13 points with Ben Cuniowski adding 12.
The Warriors led 30-28 after three quarters, allowing just five points in the third quarter but Coggins had 10 of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Cats. Coggins was 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
Canton returns to action on Tuesday night with their NCCC league contest against Suffield while Mills hosts Maloney on Tuesday night in their CCC South opener in Burlington at 6:45 p.m.
Wamogo 51, Lewis Mills 49
Wamogo (49) Anthony Tuturo 3-0-6, Justin Ferrer 4-0-10, Carter Norland 6-8-21, Preston Cordeau 2-2-8, Drew Lutz 1-0-3, Wyatt Fermia 0-0-0, Chad Crane 1-0-2. Totals 15-10-49
Lewis Mills (51) Gavin Daly 0-0-0, Jon Schibi 5-5-17, Eli Pelletier 1-0-2, Charlie Joiner 1-0-2, Jack Stanislaw 4-3-11, Tristan Mooney 0-0-0, Connor McAtee 4-0-9, Jack Nestor 0-0-0, Connor Evans 4-0-8, Jacob Hall 1-0-2, Totals 16-8-51
Wamogo (3-1) 15 8 6 20 — 49
Lewis Mills (3-1) 8 17 12 14 — 51
Three-point goals: Ferrer (W) 2, Norland (W), Cordeau (W) 2; Schibi (LM) 2, McAtee (LM)
All-Tournament team: Schibi (MVP), Stanislaw, Nordland, Michael Coggins (Suffield) and Brandon Powell (Canton)
Suffield 45, Canton 38
Suffield (45) Bobby Podykula 1-0-3, Quinn Lyman 1-2-4, Donovan Kiki 3-0-7, Nick Sattan 4-1-9, Michael Coggins 4-5-17, Sam Evans 1-0-3, Noah Schermhom 0-2-2. Totals 14-11-45
Canton (38) Taylor Kim 0-0-0, Khalil Thomas 2-0-4, Ben Cuniowski 4-2-12, Brandon Powell 3-6-13, Matthew Benedetti 1-0-2, Ryan Cuniowski 2-0-4, Ryan Benedetti 1-0-3. Totals 13-8-38
Suffield (2-2) 12 11 5 17 — 45
Canton (1-3) 5 12 13 8 — 38
Three-point goals: Podykula (S), Kiki (S), Coggins (S) 3, Evans (S), Ben Cuniowski (C) 2, Powell (C), Ryan Benedetti (C)
NOTE: This is a non-league game between the two NCCC schools in terms of standings.
2022 Litchfield Hills Classic
Wamogo 57, Canton 45
Lewis Mills 54, Suffield 52 OT
Lewis Mills 51, Wamogo 49
Suffield 45, Canton 38
Previous tournament champions
2021: Canton 53, Wamogo 30
2020: no tournament, COVID-19 pandemic
2019: no tournament
2018: Wamogo 63, Somers 56