boys Division I basketball Mustangs keep their cool
SOUTHBURY — History was about to repeat itself in the worst possible way for the Immaculate boys basketball team. A big lead was gone and its stellar season was about to finish with two of the worst losses imaginable.
But then something happened. Composure was regained as overtime began — after an eight-point lead in 75 seconds to end regulation disappeared — and the Mustangs book-ended their season to date with two wins over the FCIAC’s best.
Sean Guiry scored 10 of his 20 points in overtime as Immaculate sealed its place in the Division I quarterfinals with a dramatic 71-67 win over Ridgefield at Pomperaug High School on Wednesday. The No. 7 Mustangs will face off against No. 2 ND-West Haven for a spot in the semis on Monday.
Fortunately for the Mustangs, they were able to flip the emotional script and prove they can swim with the big fish.
“We like to make it exciting; this is Division I,” said Mustangs coach Nelson Mingachos, who is guiding his group among the top teams in the state this tournament. “The kids didn’t quit, they came back and worked their butts off. Those kids are priceless, they really are.”
The Mustangs — who let a double-digit lead slip away before dropping the SWC title to Bunnell on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer — led 56-48 with just over a minute left before the Tigers channeled their resolve, the same one that staged a sensational rally to claim the FCIAC title last week. Three-pointers by Chris Knachel and Luke McGarrity cut the deficit before a pair of foul shots by McGarrity tied the game at 56-56. Immaculate had a layup at the horn that would have won the game, but four more minutes were required to decide the contest.
“That was a tough shot that Sean missed at the horn but we gathered back in overtime,” Basile said. “We took it play by play; we didn’t take anything off and got the win.”
Immaculate displayed poise Wednesday when it seemed lost. The Mustangs quickly shot out to a 65-58 behind nine straight points from Guiry — who had four blocks — as Ridgefield threw consistent double-teams at Basile.
“It felt like we had the momentum,” said Tigers senior James St. Pierre, who scored 37 in his last game for his team. “We were coming off the huge win against Danbury where we came back in the fourth quarter and pulled it out. A couple shots didn’t drop and a few things didn’t work out our way. I’m just super proud of our guys, we didn’t give up the whole game.”
The threat of a second comeback was always there from the Tigers, but the Mustangs finally sealed the win without a dramatic moment. Ridgefield claimed its second FCIAC title in three seasons last Thursday with a regular-season title coming in between.
“The FCIAC is a great league and Ridgefield is a great team,” Mingachos said. “It was fun playing them.”
Ridgefield never led in the game despite tying it on several occasions as Immaculate started the contest on an 11-2 run.
“We just had to chase them the whole time,” Tigers coach Andrew McClellan said. “And when you do that, you expend so much energy. I think that finally caught up to us; at the end of the day we had a bunch of opportunities, shots that we’ve made all year long and we didn’t knock them down. I think the story of the game is we spotted them eight or 10 points; we probably outplayed them for three quarters but they played better than us tonight, you have to hand it to them.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Mike Basile, Immaculate: Every decision proved critical down the stretch as the Tigers threatened another furious comeback. Finished with 18 points and six assists.
“It’s definitely tough trying to get over a buzzer-beating loss but we have to move on, get to Mohegan (Sun) and try to get this one,” Basile said.
“That’s a tough one to swallow but we’re not going to dwell on this too long,” McClellan said. “We had an amazing last week; the seniors are walking here with three championships in three years, which at Ridgefield is uncharted territory. I couldn’t be more proud of what this program has become.”
RIDGEFIELD 67 (OT)
James St. Pierre 12 6-6 37 Chris Knachel 5 3-4 16 Matt DeLuca 3 1-2 7 Luke McGarrity 2 2-2 9. Totals: 22 12-14 67.
Mike Basile 9 0-0 18 Jack Woods 4 0-0 9 Quinn Guth 3 5-8 14 Sean Guiry 8 4-6 20 Joey Rios 3 4-5 10. Totals: 27 13-19 71
RIDGEFIELD 8 16 12 20 11 — 67
IMMACULATE 15 17 12 12 15 — 71
3-pointers: R—McGarrity, St. Pierre 5, Knachel 3; I—Woods, Guth 3.