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Bunnell defeats Kolbe Cathedral to repeat as SWC boys basketball champion

Updated 12:45 am, Friday, March 7, 2014

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  • Bunnell's Issac Vann (23) tips in a basket past Kolbe Cathedral defender Ian Gardener (32) in the SWC boys basketball championship game between No. 2 Bunnell and No. 5 Kolbe Cathedral at Pomperaug High School in Southbury, Conn. Thursday, March 6, 2014. Photo: Tyler Sizemore / The News-Times
    Bunnell's Issac Vann (23) tips in a basket past Kolbe Cathedral defender Ian Gardener (32) in the SWC boys basketball championship game between No. 2 Bunnell and No. 5 Kolbe Cathedral at Pomperaug High School in Southbury, Conn. Thursday, March 6, 2014. Photo: Tyler Sizemore

 

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SOUTHBURY -- Bunnell coach Pat Yerina was ready to pull his hair out when his team's 23-mile bus ride from Stratford to Pomperaug High took two and a half hours with Route 8 closed because of a tractor-trailer accident.

The Bulldogs arrived at the site of Thursday's South-West Conference championship roughly 15 minutes before the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start and were forced to adjust their pregame routine.

"I said `put 40 on (the clock).' By the time I looked, it was 30, now we do our normal thing," Yerina said. "We try to keep a routine. It's tough to keep it at that point. We had to spend a few more minutes doing some extra work."

Bunnell also took some extra time settling into a rhythm following the 8 p.m. opening tip. Eight turnovers resulted in a seven-point deficit against Kolbe Cathedral, a team it had already lost to once this season.

Eventually, the Bulldogs heated up.

Riding a 31-8 run spanning from the start of the second quarter to early in the third, the second-seeded Bulldogs built enough of a cushion to hold off Kolbe 68-64 to win their second straight SWC title.

Ian Gardener's tip-in off a missed free throw brought the Cougars to within one with 20.8 seconds left after they had been down 14, but Issac Vann iced the game at the free-throw line.

"Winning back to back is tough in any sport," Yerina said. "For us to do it, it's a tribute to them. They got it done."

Vann missed a pair of free throws with Bunnell up four with 31.9 seconds left, but he connected on his final four attempts. He finished with 20 points and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

"I was kind of beating myself up a little bit about missing the two," Vann said. "In these types of games, you've got to have a short memory. I kind of forgot about them."

Kolbe (15-8) trailed by as many as 16 points in the third, but cut the deficit to 52-43 heading into the fourth on Jordan Tompkins' heave from beyond halfcourt at the buzzer.

The Bulldogs won the battle for rebounds, however, and produced plenty of second-chance opportunities. Senior forward Donte Peeler scored 12 points off the bench.

"You can't win basketball games when the team shoots the ball and you reward them by giving them the ball back," Kolbe coach Chris Smith said. "They're going up again. ... You play great defense, you let them shoot, you've got to get that rebound."

There were also times when there weren't any rebounds, especially when Kendall Streeter was shooting. Bunnell's senior guard hit four 3-pointers, including three in the second quarter, and finished with 15 points. Point guard Ryan Pittman also scored 15.

Bunnell outscored Kolbe 18-4 in the second to take a 33-26 edge at the break. The Cougars went scoreless for over four minutes in the second before Gardener snapped a 10-0 run with a bucket.

The Cougars used a 20-7 spurt from the start of the fourth to get within 63-59 in the final two minutes. It was the closest they had been since the first half.

"All year our kids have been comfortable down," Smith said. "When we're down, for some reason we put the fire back on and end up winning."

Gardener, who had 31 points in a 67-65 win over Bunnell on Feb. 6, finished with 16 points. Tyler Underwood led the Cougars with 18 points, while Maurice Hill added 15.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; twitter.com/DougBonjour

SWC championship at Pomperaug

KOLBE CATHEDRAL (15-8)

Maurice Hill 7 1-2 15 Tahj Brown 0 0-0 0 Lommandrez Lee 0 0-0 0 Amari Courtney 0 0-0 0 Shane Burwell 1 1-2 4 Jordan Tompkins 3 2-4 9 Chetano Lee 0 0-0 0 Tyler Underwood 7 2-4 18 Charles Mitchell 0 0-0 0 Marvens Francois 1 0-0 2 Jordan Foster 0 0-0 0 Kevin Carbett 0 0-0 0 Edwin Centeno 0 0-0 0 Ian Gardener 7 2-4 16. Totals 26 8-16 64.

BUNNELL (18-5)

Ryan Pittman 4 7-12 15 Kendall Streeter 5 2-2 15 Brett Bogdwicz 0 0-0 0 Rashaad Spain 0 0-0 0 Nick Nolting 0 0-0 0 Justin Townsend 0 0-0 0 Aaron Samuel 1 0-2 2 Quadry Bines 0 0-0 0 Aaron Woods 1 0-0 2 Darek Wojenski 0 0-0 0 Issac Vann 7 6-10 20 Donte' Peeler 5 2-2 12 Zhyaire Fernandez 0 0-0 0 Romklyns Joseph 1 0-0 2 Malik Junes 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 16-29 68.

KOLBE CATHEDRAL 22 4 17 21 -- 64

BUNNELL 15 18 19 16 -- 68

3-pointers: K -- Underwood 2, Tompkins, Burwell; B -- Streeter 4.

Technical fouls: K -- Tompkins.