We never made it to Mohegan, but we sure can remember
This was supposed to be the weekend to gather at Mohegan Sun for the state basketball finals. Who knew what we'd see? Would Norwich Free Academy be playing among the Rockefellers — East Catholic or Windsor — for the Division I championship? Would Aedan Using lead his teammates at Old Lyme in a rousing, "We Are The Champions?"
Alas, we'll never know. But in the ever noble endeavor of brightening your day, Day Director of Multimedia/resident genius Peter Huoppi, the brains behind GameDay, has compiled highlights of the top 10 state playoff games of the past decade involving schools from this corner of the world. We conspired on the list and ranking.
The highlights of all 10 games are available by following GameDay — Connecticut Sports on Facebook and You Tube. The list:
No. 10: 2010, Class LL girls' final. NFA 50, Mercy 47. Perhaps the best championship game of the seven Bill Scarlata won as NFA's coach. No two better girls' programs in the last 20 years in Connecticut. NFA trailed in the third before going on a 15-0 run. It was tied 39-39 midway through the fourth when Stephanie Long fouled out. After the game she said, "I took like 30 seconds to be sad, then I turned around and said, 'you know what? I don't have time to be sad right now, we gotta win a state championship, that will fix everything anyway.'" And NFA did.
No. 9: 2015 Class M boys' 2nd round. Waterford 62, Sheehan 60. This was Greg Gwudz's final year as Waterford's coach. Tie game with seven seconds left. The Lancers inbounded the ball and had to travel the length of the floor. Connor Lewis, exactly one year to the day after making another playoff buzzer beater, put back Landon Peabody's miss at the buzzer. Lancer Nation stormed the floor and Gwudz lived to coach another game.
No. 8: 2015 Class LL boys' quarterfinal, Hillhouse 60, Ledyard 59 (OT). This was a year after perhaps Ledyard's best win in the Dave Cornish era — at traditional contender Crosby in the Class LL quarters. Ledyard trailed by seven with 1:12 to go in regulation against the school with the most championships in state history (24). DeAnte Bruton scored seven points in the final minute to send it to OT. Isaiah McNair's shot at the buzzer in OT just missed.
No. 7: 2018 Division III boys' semifinal. Waterford 77, Prince Tech 68. Just what Waterford coach Bill Bassett wanted to see: His best player, Mikey Buscetto, on the bench with foul trouble against the best team the Lancers would see all year. No worries. Complete team game as Eric Pinch and Trevor Yeomans, among others, played brilliantly. Buscetto sat out most of the third quarter in foul trouble then scored 15 in the fourth.
No. 6: 2012 Class L girls' final. Bacon Academy 38, E.O. Smith 34. Bacon trailed by 10 in the first half. Tied with two minutes to go, Taylor McLaughlin's steal and basket gave Bacon the lead. Later, she had a block and steal on defense to seal it. This was Dave Shea's second state title coaching girls' basketball and third overall (the Bacon boys won in 1981).
No. 5: 2019 Division II boys' semifinal. Waterford 83, Manchester 75. A frantic final 30 seconds featured a block-charge call the officials couldn't agree on (resulting in a jump ball), J.J. Brennan making a 3-pointer and then fouling a three-point shooter and Kenny Hill getting fouled with one second left. He made a free throw to force overtime and scored nine in OT to send Waterford to Mohegan Sun for the second straight year.
No. 4: 2014 Class M boys' first round. Waterford 57, Watertown 55. Waterford trailed by 19 points (26-7) in the first quarter and by seven with 1:37 to go. Connor Lewis' steal led to a four-point play from Danny Martin, cutting it to three. Donny Craig stole the inbounds pass and made a traditional three-point play, tying the game in all of 12 seconds. Waterford won on Lewis' putback at the buzzer.
No. 3: 2013 Class L boys' final. Woodstock Academy 52, Trinity Catholic 49. One of the great wins in ECC history. Little-known (to the rest of the state anyway) Woodstock took down seven-time state champion Trinity Catholic. Senior Ian Converse compared the Centaurs to Hoosiers: "A bunch of white kids living in farmland that came out of nowhere."
No. 2: 2017 Class LL girls' quarterfinal. New London 58, Stamford 56. Maybe the greatest win in the Holly Misto era. The Whalers and the defending Class LL champs played a classic in front of perhaps the biggest crowd for a girls' game in the venerable history of Conway Gym. Rosi Nicholson grabbed an offensive rebound away from three much taller opponents and scored at the buzzer, creating a jubilant pile at midcourt. New London won the title a week later.
No. 1: 2012 Class LL boys' quarterfinal. New London 79, Windsor 73 (2OT). At no time during his four state championship victories was Craig Parker as emotional — and ecstatic — as in the waning moments of this game. He charged down his bench near the end of the second overtime, high-fiving and hugging his players. They'd all just witnessed how a certain loss had become a wild victory before a hoarse, sellout crowd of 3,200 at Central Connecticut. The fifth-seeded Whalers (but No. 1 team in the state poll), trailed by as many as 13 in the second half and by 10 with five minutes left. Doug Henton made a clutch 3-pointer to force a second overtime. "Doug's definitely going to remember that one," the great Kris Dunn said. "Just a wonderful shot."
Hope you enjoyed this.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro