boys Division I basketball semifinals Spears strikes Mustangs
WEST HARTFORD — The Windsor boys basketball team booked its place at Mohegan Sun and vanquished some demons in one celebratory night at the University of Hartford on Wednesday night.
Amir Spears wasn’t going to have it any other way.
Carrying the team on his back at crucial stages, Spears scored 26 points — many of which were of high difficulty — and the No. 6 Warriors sealed a first state championship berth since 2014 with a 71-62 win over No. 7 Immaculate in the Division I semifinal at the Chase Family Arena.
“That’s what they do and that’s what they’re taught to do,” said Windsor coach Ken Smith, who will be coaching for a fifth state title Saturday. “That’s how they play; we don’t run a bunch of this, this and that for specific people. I don’t believe in that; I believe in teaching kids how to play.”
The Warriors dropped a heartbreaking 59-58 decision to Sacred Heart in the same building a year ago at this stage after blowing a large lead, but this time they saw the win out with a dominant final frame. The win sets up a titanic clash with CCC rival East Catholic on Saturday night at 8:15 at the Sun.
“I wanted to see (East Catholic) again,” said Spears. “It’s like World War III, it’s another great matchup and I can’t wait. The atmosphere, the court; being on a big stage. We show up on the big stage so it’s going to be good.”
Knowing playing catchup against the patient Mustangs down the stretch would be a challenge, Windsor sprung to life in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. With the game deadlocked at 46-46 with seven minutes left, the pace quickened in favor of the quasi-hosts as several key turnovers sparked momentum.
“We expressed coming out of halftime that we wanted to put ball-pressure on them and try to push up the score,” said Warriors senior Jordan Riley. “Play together, move the ball and get the win.”
The game was tight throughout as the two teams traded buckets through three quarters and into the fourth. Immaculate led by as many as seven points early on but the explosiveness of the Warriors was always lurking. Turnovers were the biggest Achilles’ heel for the Mustangs.
“Windsor is a very good team, there’s no question,” said Mustangs coach Nelson Mingachos. “They have three unbelievable guards and our kids played really well. Everything had to fall into our laps to win this game. I’m proud of the kids.”
The loss capped a 21-5 season for Immaculate, which got 19 points from Quinn Guth. Mike Basile and Jack Woods (10 each) played their final game for the Mustangs, who won the Division II title last year.
“There were a lot of tears and I wear my heart on my sleeve,” Mingachos said. “To let those two go is tough. They’re two great kids, they work so hard and I wish them the best.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Amir Spears, Windsor: The junior added several key steals to his final stat sheet, including a trio in the backcourt that led to easy points for the Warriors.
“I was here watching last year,” said Spears. “The coaches prepared us well in practice if we were up big to just defend. Our guards played great on-ball defense; we got steals down the stretch, which led to transition buckets and got us the win.”
“We just had to stay composed and stay calm,” Windsor guard Corey McKeithan said. “Stay focused.”
WINDSOR 71, IMMACULATE 62
Quinn Guth 8 0-0 19 Sean Guiry 5 2-5 12 Joey Rios 5 0-0 11 Jack Woods 4 0-0 10 Mike Basile 5 0-0 10. Totals: 27 2-5 62.
IMMACULATE 14 15 13 21 — 62
WINDSOR 15 14 15 27 — 71
3-pointers: I—Guth 3, Rios, Woods 2.