SOUTHINGTON - The Southington boys basketball team got over its first obstacle of the state tournament Monday night, now the question is, if it can carry its momentum far enough to contend for a state championship.
For the first time since 2011, the Blue Knights won a state tournament game, as No. 7 Southington beat No. 26 Berlin 56-52 in overtime in the Division III tournament. And as the Blue Kings get ready for their first second-round game in seven years on Thursday against No. 10 North Haven, they don’t want to have a let-down game either.
“We’ll we be ready for another one,” Southington head coach John Cessario said. “After a night like [Monday], we will be ready to go.”
And while the Blue Knights did come out with the win, the Redcoats certainly did not make it easy, constantly pushing Southington.
The Blue Knights struggled during regulation, always finding itself behind Berlin for most of the night. The Redcoats were able to jump out to an early lead with a 10-0 run, a lead they would keep consistent throughout the entire first half.
“In 23 games [this season] we’ve never done that,” Cessario said. “Unfortunately, it was almost as if we needed to find our legs and we didn’t play like the home team. We played like we’ve never been here before.”
But Southington knew if it could just make it to overtime, it would have a chance. It managed to send the game into the extra period after making up a four-point deficit with just under a minute left in the fourth.
“I was just glad we made it into overtime because we were not looking good during regulation,” senior Andrew Lohneiss said. “But we took advantage of the opportunity and finished.”
Throughout the season, the Blue Knights have been put into many pressure situations and this might be what helps them the most going forward in the tournament.
Southington has landed in overtime on three separate occasions, including a double overtime against Wethersfield earlier in February.
“It’s a great feeling and to get it done the way we did was stressful, but it was a win,” senior forward Tim O’Shea said. “We’ve been in a lot of overtimes this year, we’ve been in a ton of them this year. It wasn’t anything new for us and to get the chance to go into overtime being down by four with a minute left, we knew that it was destiny and we had to get that win.”
The Blue Knights always want to be prepared for the next game, and being in so many overtime situations has had its advantages.
“Sometimes you can lose in overtime like we did at Glastonbury [earlier this season] and be better from it,” Cessario said. “It helped us, it really did. Not to say that some 30-point wins give you some comforting confidence, but being in pressure situations really helps, so we’ll we be ready for another one.”
And as for carrying over that momentum, Southington believes it has the players to do so. After all, they’ve been working for this moment since they first got to the high school.
“It’s tremendous for these guys to be able to continue on,” Cessario said. “These guys are the hardest working guys I’ve known in the last four years [at Southington]. Of course it feels good for us as a staff, but I don't think of us as a staff I think of them. They have really given it to us for four years.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org