Cromwell's second half surge derails Wamogo's state title bid
UNCASVILLE – It all looked so promising. A halftime lead, slim at two points, but still a lead. The press was creating some havoc and the back-door cuts were putting points on the board. Euphoria at least beginning to bubble.
Then the day became long for No. 4 Wamogo at Mohegan Sun Saturday afternoon. Cromwell ratched up the defense, took the three-pointer away and found an answer to those cuts in a dominant second half to capture the Division V state title, 58-40.
Cromwell won its ninth state title and finished with a 23-4 record. Wamogo ended up at 22-5.
Before we go any further let’s dismiss the final score. This was a battle back and forth most of the way and just a six-point game with a little more than three minutes to go. Only in the waning moments did No. 3 Cromwell pull away as Wamogo came up empty.
“The kids played their guts out,” said proud Wamogo coach Gregg Hunt. “In the first half we put the ball where we wanted to and put the ball in the basket. We got great shots. In the second half nothing would fall. We were happy to be here and disappointed to lose. Our mission is to come back next year and it starts now.”
After an early 12-5 deficit midway through the first quarter the Warriors suddenly heated up and trailed just 21-17 with six minutes left in the first half. A run of eight straight points over the next 3:50 changed the tenor of the game.
Garrett Sattazahn (16 points) started the surge with a layup and Ethan Collins (13 points) followed with a foul shot to cut the deficit to 21-20. Then Eric Odenwaelder drained a three-pointer from the corner to give Wamogo its first lead of the night.
Sattazhan created another layup and suddenly it was 25-21 and the Warriors firing on all cylinders. They took a 27-25 lead into the half.
The run, the last four minutes of the half proved to be the highlight of the day. Cromwell pulled the plug on all the Wamogo electricity in the second half and it happened fast.
The energy was there, the shots weren’t. Wamogo managed just four second half baskets and 13 points. The Warriors shot 4-for-20 in the second half (13-for-41 for the game). Mohegan Sun turned into Mohegan done.
In less than 20 seconds sharp-shooting Noah Budzik, who led all scorers with 22 points, canned a long three-pointer to give Cromwell the lead, 28-27. It was the beginning of a nine-point run and the beginning of the end for the Warriors.
Over the next four minutes the Warriors would miss four shots and turn the ball over three times. Meanwhile Reese Reyes drained two free throws, Noah Wright drove the bucket for a basket and Budzik canned a short jumper for a 34-27 lead.
“I thought we were in good shape coming out of the first half,” said Sattazahan. “We just didn’t come out and execute. Cromwell just played good defense. I had to work for everything I got. They did a great job.”
The second half woes mostly a result of Cromwell were also not helped by an injury to Reid Turtoro who struggled with back spasms and only played 17 minutes.
“Losing Reid was big, he is a big-game player,” said Hunt. “He couldn’t will this one.”
The Warriors clawed. Have you seen a Gregg Hunt team that doesn’t? When Collins hit the team’s second and last three-pointer of the game, the deficit was cut to 38-36 and still it was just 40-36 going into the final quarter.
There just wasn’t enough there to catch the Panthers. A Collins layup early in the fourth quarter made it 42-38 and that was as close as Wamogo would come. With no three-pointers in the offing and 6-foot-4 center Gabe Charleston either altering shots or blocking shots on those cuts to the hoop, Wamogo had little else.
“(Charleston) did a great job, he was always there to help weakside,” said Collins the author of many drives to the hoop. “I wasn’t aware enough and got a lot shots blocked.”
Charleston went to work offensively and hit a baseline jumper and layup for a 46-38 lead. Sattazahn got to the hoop for two with 5:40 left and it was the last points of Wamogo’s season.
Cromwell scored the last 12 points of the game to end the game with an exclamation point. Wamogo missed its last eight shots.
“When we got behind, 51-40, I think a little panic set in,” said Hunt. “We threw up more air-balls that we did all year combined. We knew if any team got an eight or 10-point lead they would be in great shape because of their ability to control the ball.”
Cromwell coach John Pinone felt fortunate his team was where it was at the half and then revved it up in the second half.
“I really thought we were fortunate to be down only two at the half, Wamogo did a great job of pressuring us,” said Pinone. “We had three starters with two fouls and they missed a lot of time. We picked up the defensive intensity in the second half and I think we wore them out late in the game. We defended the three-pointer, too.”
Front and center along with the inevitable disappointment for the Warriors was the idea to do it again with a different outcome. There is no senior to be found and if anything a hunger just grew.
“We’ll be back and ready,” said Sattazhan. “This will drive us all spring and summer.
It wasn’t this day but there will be another day.er day.