Bears pull even with Saints in ECC Div. III race

Stonington — It took some time for John Luzzi to corral his players for the locker room celebration Friday night. They were too busy having fun back in the gym with what felt like the whole town.

Quite the happy problem. But then, that’s what happens after your kids win their biggest basketball game in years.

And now Stonington High School is a win away from earning a share of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Div. III title, the first such championship of any kind in the program since 2009.

The Bears outlasted St. Bernard, 51-50, tying the Saints atop the division, touching off quite the celebration.

“When I got here (four years ago) there was no air in the balls, no warmups and nobody wanted to play,” Luzzi said. “We’re not there yet (his team still has to win a division game Monday at Plainfield) to hang a banner would be really special.”

Senior RJ Parrilla led the Bears with 26 points, including the go-ahead layup with 32 seconds remaining that gave his team a 51-49 lead. Cooper Wall, who also celebrated Senior Night with Parrilla, had 11 points and a huge steal in the final 10 seconds.

Parrilla was fortunate to even be around for the end, after a collision with a St. Bernard player left him on the floor for a few minutes in the fourth quarter.

“RJ would have to have a bone sticking out of his leg to come out of that game,” Luzzi said.

“I’ve taken worse shots in soccer,” Parrilla said.

Parrilla scored virtually every point for the Bears in the fourth period, during which Stonington (14-5, 6-1) overcame a five-point deficit.

“I tried to use some examples from the past,” Luzzi said. “Like we’ve come too far and we’re too good to be down two possessions and think things are going to fall apart.”

They didn’t. St. Bernard, whose 13-game win streak was snapped, used a 9-0 run in the third period to wipe out a five-point deficit and take a lead into the fourth.

The Saints would have had a three-point lead at halftime, except that Parrilla beat the buzzer with a halfcourt shot that sent the Bears flying into the locker room.

Max Lee led St. Bernard (15-4, 6-1) with 14 points and DeAndre Williams had 11. St. Bernard beat Stonington 54-35 in its home game on Jan. 15.

“This is the one sport where championships have been elusive,” Parrilla, a three-sport athlete who has been on ECC championship teams in soccer and baseball, said. “The ability to win one here would be a dream come true.”

m.dimauro@theday.com

 

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