DANBURY — After nine days off since their last game, including two postponements, the Danbury boys basketball team was anxious to return to the court for today’s second round Division I Tournament meeting with Trinity Catholic.
We last saw the Hatters winning their first league title since 1992. And given the number of conference champions who have suffered early elimination from the state playoffs because of difficulty with the quick turnaround, perhaps the extra layoff was to Danbury’s benefit.
Playing with a lead for most of the final three quarters, but coming close to relinquishing it down the stretch, the Hatters steadied themselves and advanced with a 77-69 win over the Crusaders.
“In practice they were itching to get out and play,” Danbury coach Casey Bock said. I thought we did a good job of bouncing back from an FCIAC win. The kids are playing with a lot of confidence.”
Riding four straight postseason wins, the seventh-seeded Hatters (21-3) will meet No. 2 Notre Dame-Fairfield on Monday night at Trumbull.
“The FCIAC championship was fun but we knew we had to get right down to business, work hard every day in practice for this moment,” said Jordon Brown, who led Danbury with 22 points.
Danbury won the previous meeting with the Crusaders, in the FCIAC semifinals. It took the two athletic teams until the last of eight quarters before producing the type of uptempo back-and-forth play that was expected.
The Hatters opened the final period with a 12-2 run to take a seemingly commanding 61-45 lead with just over 4 1/2 minutes left.
The 10th-seeded Crusaders (17-6) chipped away, even with their second-leading scorer, Dimitry Moise, on the bench after fouling out. They got within three points on three occasions in the final 90 seconds as the Hatters were plagued by turnovers, and twice had shots in the paint to draw closer.
In one of the biggest exchanges of the game, with the score 65-62, Contavio Dutreil’s shot from inside the paint spun off the rim. The Hatters got the rebound and Brown got behind the defense for a layup.
Danbury, which was 21 of 26 from the foul line, made its shots down the stretch to hold on.
“We survived basically,” Bock said. “If you look back at the game, a couple of layups that rimmed in and out, if they make those it’s an even game and definitely a different game.”
Javon Hernandez scored 16 points for the Hatters, while Keyon Moore came off the bench to finish with 14. Denali Burton added 13.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Brown said. “Trinity’s a talented team. I can’t even describe it. It’s an amazing feeling that we came this far working hard and now we’re moving on.”
Dutreil led Trinity with 23 points. Stephon McGill added 16 points and was a key factor in the rally.
Dimitry Moise carried the offense early and added 15 points for the Crusaders, but had just 2 after halftime. Rasheed Constant finished with 11.
“I’m very proud of the way the came back and the effort they put in to come back,” Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. “They stepped up, especially Stephon and Contavio. They showed the way. We missed two layups down the stretch that probably could had made it a one-point game, but give Danbury credit. They weathered the storm and are moving on and I’m rooting for them. Unfortunately we lost in the semis to this team and the quarterfinals today. Other than that we had a pretty good season.”
Just about all of the Crusaders’ major contributors will be graduating, including Dutreil, Moise and McGill, who carried the offense most of the season.
“When you look at the season obviously we are disappointed we lost today,” Walsh said. “We played hard and we left everything on the floor. I couldn’t be prouder of our seven seniors. What they accomplished at their years at Trinity. Not only the state championship last year and the run we had this year.”
Danbury is the lone remaining FCIAC team in Division I, and continues to flourish, particularly with quick ball movement that has helped accumulate easy baskets.
“The formula is defend and rebound and play together on the offensive end,” Bock said. “We bought into that. They’re playing at a high level right now.”