By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – In what seemed to take an eternity, the Southington boys basketball team somehow got of a plethora of shots in a matter of 7.7 seconds in the final play of its CCC Interdivisional challenge against upstart Bristol Eastern.
With the Lancers leading 53-52 and those 7.7 left on the clock, the Knights had precious little time to figure out the formula for a game-winning shot.
But after a couple misses, a big miscue by the Lancers and a huge air-ball by Southington, the ball fell right in the hands of Alex Borofsky.
And Borofsky made the Lancers pay, hitting a lay-up at the buzzer as the Knights stunned Eastern 54-53 from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol on Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Those 7.7 seconds made all the difference in the world as a wild scene broke out on the court before Borofsky made it academic.
Off the inbound of the ball, Southington took a quick attempt but missed.
The Knights had the offensive rebound but in the fray, the ball came loose and it appeared as if Eastern’s Juan Gonzalez controlled the ball.
But instead of snatching the prize, Gonzalez tried to flip the ball up-court and it was intercepted by the Knights.
Southington missed a three-pointer badly but waiting under the Eastern basketball was Borofsky.
After recovering the ball, to Eastern’s horror but Southington’s pleasure, Borofsky sent home the game winning shot as time expired.
“Unbelievable,” said Southington coach Bob Lasbury. “Clearly, both teams deserved to win. Both teams played hard. We’re just fortunate that the ball our way.”
Eastern had Southington forced into a tough shot as the last seconds ticked away but the errant forward pass led to the Lancers’ eventual demise as Borofsky’s shot found the bottom of the net.
“We did everything right except secure the ball,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “We tried to do too much with it, we tried to make a play that wasn’t there and they turned it into a win.”
However, one play doesn’t win or lose a game and Eastern could have helped itself at the free throw line to avoid this situation entirely.
The Lancers missed six of 14 free throw attempts while allowing Southington a dozen-and-a-half offensive rebounds, leading to second chance shots and free throws.
Southington didn’t shoot a great percentage from the field – missing its first seven attempts of the game – but when it mattered most, the visitors tacked points on the board.
It was timely Southington three-point shooting from the tandem of Borofsky (16 points, two 3-pointers) and Chris Sherwill (12 points, four three-pointers) that both padded its lead and chopped the Lancers edge late in the game.
“If he doesn’t hit those shots, we’re not in that position at the end of the game,” said Lasbury of Sherwill’s three-point shooting. “He was huge for us and obviously every kid that stepped on the floor worked extremely hard.”
Eastern looked to have a little separation in the fourth period as Gabe Ungaro (career-high 15 points, five steals, two blocks) drilled a big three-pointer with 5:53 left in the showdown but off a 10-3 burst – highlighted by two blistering three-pointers by Sherwill – Southington went ahead 50-48 with 3:32 remaining.
“They were a patient, smart offensive team,” said Giovinazzo of Southington. “They were very strong with the ball and they have a lot of kids that can shoot it. That’s a tough team to defend.”
But from there, no additional three-pointers were scored by the Knights as Eastern switched to a man-to-man defense and eventually, the Lancers scooped up the lead one last time.
“They hit some threes, they were finding the holes in the zone, so we had to go man,” said Giovinazzo of its defense. “I don’t think we could have played them man for 32 minutes but we had to do that for that period of time and it worked out well.”
Trailing by two, Chiasson scored all five points in Eastern’s 5-2 mini jaunt as the home team picked up a 53-52 edge off one last field goal by the Lancers with 44 seconds left on the clock.
Southington was unable to gain any advantage off the Eastern hoop as Ungaro made a quick steal and was sent to the foul line with 21.4 left to play.
But he missed both free tosses as Southington took one last stab at it.
Off the missed charity shots, the Knights tried to send a pass in the middle of the paint but an Eastern player deflected the pass as Southington retained possession with 7.7 seconds remaining.
7.7 seconds later, it was all over.
Eastern was led by Ungaro as he also snatched three rebounds, dished out three assists and showed a real touch from long range.
“Gabe was definitely our leader offensively,” said Giovinazzo. “But all the guys gave us a real good effort but (Ungaro) stepped up in crunch time and did some real nice things.”
Chiasson ended the contest with 10 points, eight rebounds, and four assists while Kevin Love made his varsity debut and added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Mike Belton also played well and put in six points, five rebounds, and three assists while George Taylor (four points, two assists) also did well in his first starting assignment.
Southington’s Steve Mierzijewski (nine points) just missed out on a double-double but the pivot man helped the Knights take an early edge in the contest.
Leading 5-2 off a Belton hoop to open the game, Southington went on a 13-5 run to end the first period as the Knights were in front 15-10.
Southington eventually edged out a seven-point cushion midway through the stanza off a Borofsky three-pointer (20-13) but Eastern crept back in it.
A lay-up from Eric Therrien and a blazing three-pointer by Daron McKoy made it a 24-21 game before Southington posted a 27-23 edge at the half.
Eastern only trailed by one (30-29) two minutes into the third tilt but an 8-2 run by Southington – capped by two charity tosses from Mierzijewski – made it a 38-31 game with 3:32 left in the quarter.
But Eastern went on a run of its own, tied the game at 38-38 after three quarters and eventually posted a five-point edge early in the final period.
Off what turned out to be a 14-2 gallop, the Lancers led 45-40 as a big three-pointer by Ungaro – off a slick pass from Belton – put Eastern into the driver’s seat.
But Southington made that huge comeback and in the end, the Knights pulled off a big win in a historically tough gymnasium to play in.
“I’m thrilled,” said Lasbury. “I’m thrilled not because we won at the buzzer but because we need to convince ourselves that we’re not the same team as last year. Last year was definitely a struggle for us. We were certainly competitive in most our games but we didn’t win a lot.”
“I think it sends a message that we’re going to win this year.”
For Eastern, it was a tough loss to absorb and a definite learning experience for the home club.
“I can’t say I’m happy, I can’t say all that effort is positive because you’ve got to learn how to finish those games,” said Giovinazzo. “And we didn’t.”