Forman brings home the HVAL Championship after a 66-40 win over Chase.
LITCHFIELD: The Forman School boys basketball team left no doubt about who was the top dog in the Housatonic Valley Athletic League, not that there had been much question all season.
The culmination of head coach John Strawson and his Lions efforts since the campaign began in 2019 was a beauty, a resounding 66-40 win over Chase Collegiate on February 29, leap year day.
It’s fitting that the Forman effort came on an extra day that only hits once ever four years. This team was one that doesn’t come along with very often either.
“This all came full circle,” Strawson said. “We talked about the championship game back in November when we started. So, to see them get it and earn it and to play the right way was tremendous.”
As a packed gymnasium looked on, the Lions quest for the top spot was nearly flawless in a game that saw Strawson, who did a magnificent job with this unit this year, get key plays from almost every player on the floor at just the right times.
Court general Dontae Thomas, the final piece of the puzzle that made a good team a great team this year, led the way in every way possible with 13 points and was a calming influence while putting constant pressure on his opponent.
Fellow upperclassmen Lorenzo Lauria was, in the words of Forman AD, Scotty McCarty, “a game changer” with a dominant performance on the glass on both ends of the floor while pitching in with 12 points.
Lauria, a soccer star, left his mark on the basketball program with an athleticism that was marvelous to watch with an array of talents that featured superior ball handling skills and a drive that was second to none.
‘He is such a game changer,” Strawson said. “His speed on the floor is unbelievable. Whenever it seems like we need a rebound, he just goes up there and gets it. He doesn’t care who is in his way, his determination is second to none.”
After Chase struck first by jumping out to a 5-0 lead, the home team got on the board thanks to a strong inside basket by another standout this year, Harrison Day who had three points on the day but played really tough defense against Chase star Jamal Clarke who was held to seven points.
One of the Forman strengths comes right out of a place close to the coach’s heart in his big men who rotated on Clarke all game, denying him any chance of comfort down low.
“I saw in the paper that the big man (Clarke) had 30 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks in his last game,” Strawson said. “So, I knew I had the rotation of three big men to tire him out. As a big man myself, I know when you start getting bumped, it gets annoying. I had 15-fouls to use on him, he only had five.”
If it wasn’t Day, it was Lauria or Ben Rushford (6 points) making the big man uncomfortable inside.
Lauria scored six points in the first eight minutes of the first half and his coast to coast burst with under three minutes to go in the half stretched the home teams lead to double digits at 27-17 and the Lions never looked back.
Everybody had in on the fun in the first 16-minutes. Ryan Capozucca connected on a beauty of a fade away shot and added a three pointer near the end of the half for a 37-21 lead at the break.
Any time Chase threatened to get back into it in the first half, Forman had an answer, whether it be Thomas with a floater or a steal for a basket or a long ball by Kai Burridge (8 points), the Lions struck right back.
Anthony Molina (game high 16) tried to keep his team in the game but with Clarke neutralized and the teams regular point guard in a boot, unable to play, it just wasn’t enough.
The second half started with Thomas and Burridge both getting in foul trouble early with Thomas getting his third and fourth fouls in the first four minutes of the half while Burridge picked up his third with 13 to play.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors though as Clarke went down hard under his own basket and appeared to turn an ankle and would not return.
Chase would go without a point for nearly seven minutes as the home team went on a 16-0 run to go up 55-26 with eight minutes left.
Thomas left the court for the final time to a thunderous applause from the Lions faithful with just over four minutes to play and the win and championship in hand.
Notes: Nice to see a great crowd on hand on Saturday, including former players who were teammates of Thomas at Torrington High School along with his Raiders coach, Eric Gamari and former Raiders and Forman coach Tony Turina.
Burridge, Thomas and Lauria played their last game at the school, meaning the bigs (Day and Rushford) come back as does Ethan Kramer (9 points), Capozucca and a host of others.
Expect Forman to be strong as the 2020/2021 campaign rolls around in November.