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Boys basketball Stratford hangs on to beat Bunnell

February 7, 2019

STRATFORD — There were several things riding on Wednesday night’s tilt between Bunnell and Stratford.

There were playoff implications for both the South-West Conference and the CIAC state tournament. Also, Stratford was riding a five-game winning streak. But bragging rights sometimes takes precedence.

Stratford made all four free throw attempts down the stretch and Bunnell missed a tying 3-pointer in the final seconds, allowing the Red Devils to hang on for the 58-55 victory at Needham Memorial Gymnasium

“We have five guys who have a very good basketball IQ, very unselfish and play well together. They have played together for a long time. It makes things easier for a coach,” Stratford coach Tim Swaller said.

The town rivals split their regular-season meetings, but the Red Devils (12-5, 9-1) won the counting one for the SWC playoff race and remained in contention for the top seed in the league tournament beginning Feb. 22.

“We talk all the time that we want to be in a situation where we play at home here and play at home in the state (tournament),” Swaller said. “We are playing well, doing things well and hopefully, we can achieve that.”

Said Bunnell coach Dannie Powell: “We really wanted a home game (in SWCs), but you have to bring. It doesn’t start at 7 p.m. (on game day). It starts the day before at practice.”

Stratford held a seven-point lead at 50-43 — the largest for either team — with 5:10 left. Bunnell (11-5, 7-2) whittled it down to 1 inside of 4 minutes.

Then the Red Devils, who had dictated with a deliberate tempo most of the night, spread the court and forced the Bulldogs to foul after failing to come up with the steal. First Joe August, then Zach Fedak, made a pair of free throws to push the lead back to three.

Both times, Bunnell answered. Then Jack Ryan hit Mike August for a back-door layup with 15 seconds left, putting Stratford up by the final margin.

“We were taking a back door layup or something clear-cut, (otherwise) eat some clock and make them foul us,” Swaller said.

Bunnell called for two consecutive timeouts with 5.2 seconds left, the latter after not being able to inbounds the ball from in front of its own bench.

“It was a flare screen for Max (Edwards). If they didn’t double (Max), he should be open,” Powell said. “Khalid (Moreland) was supposed to drive toward the middle and find Derrick (Gyimah), our other shooter and he should be wide open in the corner.”

Moreland took the inbounds pass, took three dribbles and fired to Gyimah for the open 3-point shot from the corner — but Gymah overshot the basket.

“We had said (to the players), ‘Switch on anything, anything inside let it go, get out and contest (the 3s),’ ” Swaller said. “We lost Derek. Fortunately, the shot didn’t go in.”

Bunnell was able to lead for most of the first half and stay in the game throughout despite Edwards finishing with just six points, He spent a considerable part of the game on the bench.

“I didn’t think he was bringing it, he didn’t have the energy. I didn’t like the body language so I went with guys who were going to bring energy and play hard,” Powell said.

Ryan led Stratford with 14 points and Jayquan Kirkland added 13. Bunnell’s Elijah Alexandre led all scorers with 15 points.

Stratford led virtually the entire second half after trailing much of the first half. Bunnell tied it just once late in the third quarter.

Player of the game

Jack Ryan, Stratford: Scored five of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and had the assist to Mike August with 15 seconds left to put Stratford up by the final margin.

Quotable

“I’m happy to be back, but wish I got the win,” Bunnell coach Dannie Powell said. This was Powell’s first game as a head coach at Stratford, his alma mater.

joseph.morelli@hearstmediact.com; @nhrJoeMorelli

STRATFORD 58, BUNNELL 55

BUNNELL 16 13 10 16 — 55

STRATFORD 17 12 15 14 — 58

BUNNELL

Khalid Moreland 5 1-2 11 Tyler Staggs-Burgess 2 0-0 4 Max Edwards 2 2-4 6 Elijah Alexandre 7 0-0 15 Jerrod Leak 3 0-0 7 Derrick Gyimach 2 2-2 6 Josh Gianani 1 0-0 2 Javon Wilson 1 0-0 2 Tyrone Coleman 0 2-2 2 . Totals: 23 7-12 55

STRATFORD

Zack Fedak 2 3-4 9 Jack Ryan 5 3-4 14 Mike August 3 1-2 7 Joe August 2 3-4 7 Preston Williams 2 2-3 8 Jayuan Kirkland 5 2-2 13 Mike D’Aloia 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 14-19 58

3-point goals: Stratford — Fedak 2, Williams 2, Ryan 1, Kirkland 1; Bunnell — Alexandre 1, Leak 1. Records: B 11-5 (7-2 SWC); S 12-5 (9-1).

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