NEW BRITAIN - With its first round victory out of the way with a win over New Milford Tuesday night, the New Britain boys basketball gets a third shot at taking on New London, this time with the end of the season on the line.
The Whalers have beaten the Hurricanes twice in the regular season, 56-41 in the first game and 53-52 in the second.
While two losses against New London suggest New Britain has struggled, it’s more so the Hurricanes were a different team at that time of the year, as they started the season 5-5.
New Britain, however, went on to close out the regular season with a 10-game win streak.
“We’re playing a lot more guys than before,” New Britain head coach Kurt Reis said. “We’re a totally different team. But it doesn’t matter if we don’t have guys contributing. We won’t have much success.”
In order to come out with a win against the Whalers, the Hurricanes must build off their 66-48 opening round win of the Division II tournament against New Milford.
The 18-point victory on the surface looks dominant, but it’s one New Britain believes it could have performed better in.
“I think we were a lot better than that team,” Hurricanes junior guard Maurice Turner said. “We prepared for them in practice but we didn’t show up like we should have. We’re a lot better than that and need to show it.”
New Britain’s guard play is key to making a deep tournament run. Offensively, the Hurricanes bring it every night, but defensive consistency isn’t present all the time. Against New Milford, the Hurricanes backcourt allowed Green Wave guard Malik Proctor to score 14 points in the second half and penetrate the paint at ease after limiting him to just two points in the first half. Those defensive inconsistencies must change if the Hurricanes want to get by New London.
“We have guards that can match up with anybody in the state,” Reis said. “But defensively we need to be consistent. Going forward we’re going to be playing better teams so the defense needs to pick up.”
With the Whalers primarily being a shooting team, forcing their shooters inside could be in the works for New Britain. If that’s the case, the Hurricanes’ guards will get a chance to showcase their on-ball defense and athleticism. Letting them shoot won’t end well.
“We have to contest shots,” Turner said. “They’re not that good of ball handlers so we should be able to stay in front of them. But they are really good shooters and if we don’t contest shots we’ll be in trouble.”
It’s round three between the two and the Hurricanes will get a chance to prove they indeed are the team that ended the season on a 10-game win streak and not the one that started out 5-5, dropping two of the games to their second round foe.
“They beat us two times, but if we lose a third time, that means we didn’t change,” New Britain senior forward Jahfari Newman said.
For Reis and the Golden Hurricanes, it’s all about proving they have become a better team and winning the one game this season against New London that matters the most.
“Survive and advance,” Reis said. “Win by one or 21, it doesn’t matter.”