Coventry ends Bears’ title game hopes

EAST HARTFORD – The effort was gritty, even noble. Everything you might expect in an electric atmosphere with the chance to play for a state title on the line. Enough on many nights, maybe most nights to be the catalyst for victory.

Not on this night for the Thomaston High boys basketball team. For all the blood, sweat and tears, the ball just didn’t go in the basket enough.  The end result a painful 61-50 defeat to No. 8 Coventry in a grueling, physical matchup at East Hartford High School.

Once the disappointment settles, the Bears can take solace in the idea that everyone returns for next season. Meanwhile, the Patriots, who dispatched Berkshire League champion Nonnewaug in the quarterfinals, will face off with Old Lyme who made it a rough night for the BL with a 43-40 win over Litchfield, for the Class S title.

The Bears (15-11) shot erratically on the night managing just one three-pointer while the Patriots buried eight from long distance including three in the fourth quarter. All of which provided the difference for Coventry.

“This was probably our worst shooting night of the year. We were one for 13 or 14 from the three-point line, got to be sub – 50 percent from the free throw line (3-for-8). We got a lot of quality shots from good players in good spots. Sometimes and I hate to say it but the sport is make or miss sport. They made some and we missed some.  On an individual basis the efforts we got from everybody in terms of doing the little things was 100 percent what we needed. “

The game was rock fight throughout and up for grabs most of the night. But Coventry took control with two minutes left in the third quarter and the Bears never recovered.

The Bears trailed 37-33 when Coventry freshman Kristian Bici hit a driving layup and followed it up with a dagger three-pointer with two seconds left in the quarter for a 42-33 lead. He also hit a basket at the end of the second period to put Coventy up 25-23 at the half.

“(Bici) didn’t catch us by surprise. He was kid whose minutes went up as the year on,” Bunel said. “He just got tougher and tougher. He made some plays tonight for certain.”

What hope the Bears had entering the final eight minutes was cushed by the Patriots Aidan Jeamel. The fourth quarter belonged to the senior guard who was nothing short of brilliant. He hit a trio of nothing-but-net three-pointers while scoring 15 of his game-high 22 points.

When Thomaston closed the gap to 42-37 on baskets by Jake Morton (13 points) and Vince Russman (19 points). Jeamel answered with bomb. After Russman answered with shot from in tight, Jeamel responded with another three-pointer to push the lead back to 48-39.

Jaemel wasn’t done. He followed with his third three-pointer of the quarter for the largest lead of the night, 51-39.

“I got open looks and started knocking them down,” Jaemel said. “Once the first one went in I felt like I could shoot anything.”

“The first scouting report I got on that team was that kid (Jaemel) had late game confidence,” Bunel said. “And that was probably the most fitting report that we got because as you saw at the end is that is the moment got bigger he got tougher.”

The Bears refused to step back down the stretch. They turned a 55-45 deficit with 3:40 to go into a five-point game, 55-50 on two Morton hoops down low and a Dionne free throw with 1:36 to go. However they would not score again, missing several shots and turning the ball over twice.

“We put ourselves in a position with a chance to win which is all you can ask for,” Bunel said. “We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.

Thomaston fell behind early, 15-6, but quickly erased the deficit with a run of 13 straight points to take a 19-15 lead midway through the second quarter. Russman keyed the surge with eight points. However, Coventry went on a 10-4 lead to regain the lead by the half.

Russman had a big game for the Bears as did Dionne who grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.

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