By MICHAEL LETENDRE
DERBY – For the second campaign in a row, the St. Paul Catholic boys basketball team qualified for state tournament play in Derby.
However, the squad – just like last season – had a real battle with the Red Raiders until the final horn sounded.
The final horn in overtime, that is.
Winless Derby pushed the Falcons to the limit but in the end, late free throws from Tyler Arbuckle did the trick as St. Paul Catholic downed the Raiders 85-82 in five periods worth of action from Derby High School.
The Falcons (8-4 overall) saw Arbuckle can a career high 30 points – his previous high of 24 came in Bristol Eastern’s opener versus Rocky Hill last season – and made those critical foul shots late to keep Derby (0-12) at bay.
Darek Wiecki, for the second straight contest, was a brilliant offensive performer in the low post and sank home 17 points.
Mainstays Austin Jones (17 points) and Mike Palmieri (14) combined for 31 points to help stave off a pesky effort from the Raiders.
Four players scored in double figures for Derby including Jahwan Cody (23 points), Davant Addison (18), Ty Stanley (16), and Isaiah Walker (15).
Eli Kennedy, Bo Arndt, and Donovan Symes all scored points for the Falcons and quickly in the game, St. Paul Catholic went on the offensive.
The locals jammed up 25 points on the scoreboard over the first eight minutes of play and led 25-13 out the gate.
But Derby then returned the favor by plastering 25 points of its own to close the deficit by the half. St. Paul Catholic led 45-38 at the break but lost that edge by the end of the third period, outscored 23-12 by the home outfit and trailed 61-57 with the fourth quarter lurking.
However, the Falcons notched 19 fourth period points and by the end of regulation, the affair was knotted up at 76-76.
Arbuckle canned five of six free throws to ice the contest late as the Falcons surged to the three-point victory and punching their playoff ticket in the process.
And then on Friday, Jan. 27, St. Paul Catholic blitzed Wolcott 59-33 as Arbuckle (14 points), Jones (13), and Palmieri (9) led the charge.