TRUMBULL — It was The Bourne Identity, Supremacy, Ultimatum and Legacy, all rolled into one unforgettable 12-minute stretch that will be etched into part of Connecticut high school basketball lore.
Call it The Bourne Triumph.
On a Division I Tournament night of March Madness in which three of four quarterfinal games were decided by eight points, two went into overtime and the No. 1 seed and heavy favorite lost on a 3-point shot at the buzzer, Tyler Bourne quite literally shot his way into the mix and carried Notre Dame-Fairfield on his shoulders and into the Final Four.
With the Lancers trailing Danbury by 21 points at the start of the fourth quarter and showing no signs of what was to ensue, Bourne started an epic comeback with a basket. He would later add two free throws.
Then, with the Lancers forcing turnovers and Josh Reaves carrying the offense, the baton was passed back to Bourne, who scored from inside, outside, the foul line and, ultimately, in the final seconds of regulation, on a long 3-point shot that tied the score at 62-62 to force overtime.
Bourne continued his dominance, finishing with 30 of his game-high 36 points after the start of the fourth quarter for an improbable 76-70 victory.
“I have taken over games before but that one was different, that one was special,” Bourne said. “Anything the team needs me to do, I’m going to do. If it’s defense, assists, points, I’m going to do it. We’re not losing. We’re not losing.”
Reaves, who had 13 of the Lancers’ 25 points through three quarters — they then tripled their output with relentless pressure, forcing turnovers that were converted into easy baskets — scored 18 points from that point on to finish with 31.
“To be honest, I never feel a game is over,” Bourne said. “Their run just lasted a little longer than expected. We’ve all been in these type of games before. The only thing that matters is what we just did and that’s winning.”
It was a crushing finish for the Hatters, the FCIAC champions, who dominated early on and appeared to have the game in control. They got rattled but steadied in a second-round win over Trinity Catholic two days earlier, but on this night they could not overcome their inability to protect the ball.
And as the score got closer, passivity took over. Suddenly, Danbury looked like it was playing not to lose after being on the verge of delivering a knockout punch.
“We didn’t take care of the ball well enough at the end,” Danbury coach Casey Bock said. “Give credit to them and Bourne. He hit shots.”
Danbury’s last loss, on the final night of the regular season, also came at Trumbull, a gymnasium they will be content not to visit again anytime soon. Since that time the Hatters peaked, winning four straight games that included their first conference championship in 36 years.
And for most of tonight’s game they used the same pinpoint passing to get easy layups, backed up the lead with strong defense and appeared ready to advance at least a round further than last year.
“I thought we played great for three quarters but we didn’t finish the game,” Bock said. “These kids expected to win so there’s no moral victory. It stings and it’s tough.”
Denali Burton scored 22 points to lead the seventh-seeded Hatters (21-4), who briefly steadied themselves during a wild two-minute fourth-quarter exchange in which they quickly traded baskets with the Lancers, and again at the start of overtime, when Jordon Brown put Danbury ahead with a reverse.
But a 3-point shot by Bourne with 2:37 remaining gave the Lancers a lead they would not relinquish — their first one since a 15-3 Danbury run helped it take an 18-9 lead early in the second quarter.
“He hit some great shots and he made some plays but we turned the ball over too much,” Bock said. “I wish I figured out a way for us to hold onto the lead but unfortunately that’s not the case. They hit shots and I thought defensively we let them make too many layups, and the lead is down to 10 and then it’s a ballgame.”
Brown finished with 20 points before fouling out. Javon Hernandez added 9 points.
“The kids are upset and they are going to be upset for a while,” Bock said. “The expectations were to make it to the next round and they were confident kids playing real well. I just feel bad I didn’t get them to the semis. I am sure we are going to get all the negativity but hopefully in a week or so they will reflect on what they did this season and how special the season was.”