NEW BRITAIN - New Britain boys basketball head coach Kurt Reis had seen his fair share of comebacks, but his team’s effort in Friday night’s Division II second round state tournament game against New London was special.
The Hurricanes erased a 16-point second-half deficit to make their first state quarterfinal appearance since the 2013-14 season. It was not only one of the biggest comebacks Reis has been a part of, but his 200th career win in the process.
“I would probably have to say it’s one of the top two comebacks I have ever had,” Reis said.
What made the game different for New Britain was how uncharacteristically bad the team played early on, compared to the majority of its season, in which the Hurricanes only had two double-digit losses. One of those losses had come against the Whalers.
New Britain struggled throughout the first three quarters, and with shots failing to fall like they usually do, the Hurricanes fell behind quickly.
“We were stagnant [early],” Reis said. “New London did a good job of making us play ugly. The referees also let us play, so you had to be tougher than normal. A lot of layups [were] in and out, hoping they would go in.”
“I don’t even know what happened in the first three quarters,” New Britain sophomore Tahmeen Dupree said. “We weren’t executing. We weren’t playing the way we wanted to play.”
But then senior Jahfari Newman provided the spark in the fourth quarter that turned out to be the momentum-swinger, throwing down a dunk that ignited a 10-0 run to that would lead to the Hurricanes’ win.
“The crowd was hyping us up, so we took that momentum and just built and built off of it,” Dupree said. “We kept saying we did not want to lose to this team because we know we’re better than them and we were not going to let it happen again.”
New Britain will play No. 2 Immaculate (17-4) in Danbury tonight at 7 p.m. A win would give the Hurricanes their first semifinal appearance since the 2004 tournament.
And if Friday’s victory did anything, it put any potential opponent on notice: You need to make sure you play the full 32 minutes against New Britain.
“For the kids it’s a great opportunity,” Reis said. “A lot of these guys have never experienced something like this, or a win like that of that magnitude, or even reaching the quarterfinals. They pulled it together somehow, some way, doesn’t really matter how it happened, but we won.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org