CROMWELL - Innovation boys basketball head coach Matt Lance had a message for his team after Saturday night’s game against Cromwell - “hold your heads up.”
He wanted his players to know what they had accomplished.
It wasn’t too long ago the terms Innovation and state tournament, let alone quarterfinals, in the same sentence seem like a long way off. That all changed this season. But unfortunately for the Ravens, that’s where their run through the Division V state tournament also ended.
Reese Reyes hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 2:21 left in the fourth quarter to swing the momentum of the game in Cromwell’s favor and Innovation was never able to recover as the Ravens fell 57-55 in the Division V state tournament quarterfinals.
Reyes finished with a team-high 15 points with his shot giving the Panthers a 46-45 lead and never trailed again.
“I think [Cromwell] started to extend a little more aggressively to the full court [during the fourth quarter],” Lance said. “We had a little trouble getting the ball in a couple of times [late in the fourth], but we were essentially playing front the entire game and when a team takes a lead on a 3 like that, it tough to get back into it.”
After the first quarter, Innovation (16-9) had only trailed at two other times before Reyes’ 3-pointer thanks to its aggressive style of defense and the offensive spark Malcolm Lewis provided off the bench.
Lewis finished with a game-high 22 points, 18 of which came in the second half. The senior was particularly effective driving to the basket with Cromwell struggling to stop him once he got to the paint.
“I just wanted it,” Lewis said. “I just buckled up and put my head in the game, stayed focused and got to the rack. Everybody wanted it. I just wanted it more and played smart.”
The Ravens also got a strong contribution from Ramiesh Bogle, who finished with 14 points and played well on the defensive end of the court.
But Innovation only got six points combined from its top two scorers. Lenny Okonya was held to six points and Carlos Gonzalez failed to score a single basket.
“I think both of them have carried us through so many games this season and we always talk about as a team that we’re not defined by one player, we’re not defined by two players,” Lance said. “What I really liked about how both of them played is even though Carlos wasn’t hitting shots or Lenny wasn’t getting baskets, was they played their tails off defensively.”
Yet even without their two leading scorers knocking down shots, the Ravens closed out the first half on a 6-0 run and opened upped the third hitting four of the quarter’s first six shots.
Still, there were times Innovation got careless with the ball, which never allowed it to pull away from the Panthers and allowed them to hang around longer than the Ravens would have liked.
“We had too many turnovers,” Bogle said. “We had too many unforced turnovers for sure.”
But while Cromwell will advance to the semifinals against No. 2 Canton (19-3) on Tuesday, Lance said his team has nothing to be disappointed about considering where the program was not only five years ago when it started, but entering the season too when Innovation merged with Two Rivers High School.
“For [the players] coming together [after] one year [together] and doing this, they made our whole school proud,” Lance said. “They made everybody proud.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Division V Quarterfinals
No. 3 Cromwell 57, No. 11 Innovation 55
Innovation 10 15 12 12 - 55
Cromwell 11 8 13 15 - 57
INNOVATION: Malcolm Lewis 9-3-22, Carlos Gonzalez 0-0-0, Lester Emmanuel 5-0-10, Andre Sterling 0-0-0, Ramiesh Bogle 4-6-14, Lenny Okonya 3-0-6, Brett Baisden 1-1-3. Totals: 22-10-55.
CROMWELL: Noah Budzik 3-5-13, Nick Wright 3-2-8, David Dewey 1-2-4, Jalyjah Tracy-Gavin 1-0-3, Austin Roy 1-0-3, Gabe Charleston 4-3-11, Reese Reyes 6-0-15. Totals: 19-14-57.
3-Point Goals: Lewis (I), Reyes (C) 3, Roy (C), Tracy-Gavin (C).
Records: Innovation 16-9, Cromwell 19-3.