The Coginchaug boys' basketball team fought off a furious fourth-quarter rally by Windsor Locks Thursday night to advance to the Class S quarterfinals.
The Blue Devils, who led the entire game, survived the Raiders' final surge when Tommy Ryan grabbed a defensive rebound and scored one from the foul line with 2.4 seconds left to secure the 54-52 victory. The 12th-seeded Blue Devils (15-8), who had opened the fourth quarter with a 51-40 lead, will meet No. 4 St. Paul in Bristol on Monday.
With 20 seconds left and Coginchaug up 53-52, Ryan missed the front end of a one-and-one from the foul line and Donovin Ford-Hayes snared the defensive rebound for Windsor Locks (16-7), which called time out with 9.3 seconds remaining. Tim Putnam received the inbounds pass and darted toward the basket. His pass found Taylor Gorzkowski open momentarily but Gorzkowski missed a five-footer.
Gorzkowski’s putback shot was off mark as well, Ryan won the battle for the rebound and was fouled with 2.4 seconds to play. After his foul shot made it 54-52, Gorzkowski got the rebound from Ryan’s missed second shot and passed to Putnam, whose buzzer-beating shot from beyond half court hit the rim.
“In a tournament game, you’ve got to get lucky, too,” said Coginchaug coach Todd Salva. “They missed two open shots at the end.”
Luck has nothing to do with never trailing at all.
“We had one play with three options,” said Windsor Locks coach Mike Mascaro, who designed the last play. “Tim could look for Donovin to pop out, Taylor to roll out or he could turn the corner. I thought Taylor might have rushed his first shot.”
Gorzkowski, an All-NCCC selection, played sparingly because of foul trouble, particularly in the first half. He is the leading rebounder for the Raiders, who were outrebounded by Coginchaug throughout. But the comeback was fueled in part by two blocked shots and two deflected shots by Gorzkowski once he rejoined the lineup to stay, foul trouble or not. On two occasions, Gorzkowski’s blocks led to Raiders fast breaks that were not converted because of turnovers.
Mistakes and weak rebounding are what Mascaro blamed for the loss. A cold night shooting didn’t help matters, either.
Coginchaug had the better shooting game. Erikson Wasyl had the hottest hand. He scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the third quarter when the Blue Devils turned a 26-24 halftime lead into their 51-40 advantage at the start of the fourth quarter.
“He’s been consistent all year,” Salva said. “He’s shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the arc.”
The third quarter both began and ended with a 3-point shot by Wasyl.
“In the third quarter, we lost their shooter [Wasyl],” Mascaro said . “It was not a great defensive quarter for us and we pride ourselves on our defense.”
Wasyl failed to score in a fourth quarter that saw the Blue Devils' offensive execution in a spread set almost cost them the game, Salva said.
“With our shot selection in the fourth quarter, we gave them the game back,” Salva said. “Our spread offense has been our bread and butter the last three or four years. In the spread, if you don’t have a clean shot, you’re not supposed to take it and we took them, and that’s how they came back.
“We’ve got to be smart and we didn’t to a pretty good of doing it.”
Mascaro accused his team of not making good choices, either, even during its fourth-quarter drive.
“We just made too many mistakes. Even when we were getting back into the game, we were making mistakes that are uncharacteristic of us.
“Overall, I was very proud of our team. We kept fighting, kept fight and kept fighting,” Mascaro said.
Ethan Donecker scored 12 points for Coginchaug and Andrew Markowki added 11. Putnam led Windsor Locks with 18 points. Brandon McIntosh had 10 points, Ford-Hayes nine and Gorzkowski eight.
St. Paul (18-5) beat No. 20 Wamogo 83-62 in their second-round game on Thursday. St. Paul defeated the Blue Devils 60-55 in the second round of last year's tournament in Durham.