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    Sunday, March 26, 2023

    Killingly, Griswold advance to ECC Div. II title game

    Waterford — Jim Crabtree has earned many compliments during his high school coaching career, yet perhaps never the word “prophet” until now.

    Crabtree recalled a story Saturday about the first Killingly-Griswold game in December, now that Killingly-Griswold is set for Tuesday night in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II boys’ basketball championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena.

    “Rob (Griswold coach Rob Mileski) and I were talking before that game about what a great game we thought it would be,” Crabtree said. “I said to him, ‘yeah the first of three this year.’ Rob didn’t want to look that far ahead. But I said, ‘if we don’t get our teams to Mohegan, we should both be fired.’”

    And now Killingly, which lost both games to Griswold during the regular season, gets its chance at revenge Tuesday at 6 p.m. Killingly, the No. 2 seed, advanced with a 67-56 win over stubborn No. 2 Wheeler before top-seeded Griswold dispatched No. 4 Bacon Academy, 57-36, both at the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse.

    “To beat Killingly again would be a major accomplishment,” Mileski said.

    Yianni Baribeau led Killingly (17-5) with 23 points, managing to survive early foul trouble (two fouls in the first two minutes). But it was senior Thomas Dreibholz’s 3-pointer with five minutes left that finally helped his team extend its lead. Dreibholz, who scored 17 points, made the shot to give his team a 59-52 lead at the time.

    “We knew Wheeler was good,” Crabtree said. “But we really had a hard time guarding them. A very well coached team.”

    Kyle Kessler led the Lions (16-6) with 17 points and Deandre Bransford added 16. Wheeler awaits its state tournament opponent in Division V.

    Griswold held Bacon scoreless for the first 3:58 of the second half, turning a two-point halftime lead into as many as 18.

    “We knew we had to stop their two scorers, Luke (Grimord) and Elijah (Black),” Griswold senior Chrsistian Russell said. “We play eight guys and anyone can score. It could be anybody’s night.”

    Russell led the Wolverines with 16 points and Jeff Souvenance had 13.

    “Tom Izzo (the Michigan State coach) says ‘defense travels,’” Mileski said. “That’s what we talked about at halftime. Our bread and butter is to play fast and ugly. Roll it out and let them go.”

    Grimord led Bacon with 11 points.


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