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Weston's Cinderella run ends in M state final

Updated 12:03 pm, Monday, March 18, 2013

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  • After falling to recover the basketbal Weston's #42 Grant Limone pass the ball to a teammate, during Class M boys basketball final action against Valley Regional at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. on Friday March 15, 2013. Photo: Christian Abraham / Connecticut Post
    After falling to recover the basketbal Weston's #42 Grant Limone pass the ball to a teammate, during Class M boys basketball final action against Valley Regional at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. on Friday March 15, 2013. Photo: Christian Abraham

 

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The way these last two weeks had been going for Charlie DiPasquale, the ball seemed destined to find the bottom of the net for a 3-pointer in the dying seconds of Weston's M state championship game against Valley Regional.

Instead of twine, the shot found air.

Fifth-seeded Valley Regional got the rebound and made two free throws to seal a 52-45 over Weston in front of 3,874 Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville.

And with that, the surprising run by the 23rd-seeded Trojans was finished.

"Everyone gave it their all," said DiPasquale, who led all scorers with 24 points. "In the last couple minutes their (Valley Regional's) senior leadership stepped up."

Weston's run was all the more improbable due to the fact that its coach, Mike Hvizdo, was let go in early February. Hvizdo acted in a short comedy film 10 years ago called "Forbidden Fruit," which was sent to school administrators, who deemed it "inappropriate." The Trojans and community rallied around their embattled coach and he was reinstated on the eve of the state tournament.

With Hvizdo back on the sideline, the Trojans -- who were 10-11 after losing to Bethel in the SWC quarterfinals -- rattled off four straight wins to make the state final for the fourth time in school history.

By Friday night the Hvizdo situation, which had drawn national attention in places like "Good Morning America," faded into the background with basketball moving to the forefront.

"This isn't about me," the second-year coach said. "It's about these kids that never gave up, no one would have ever thought a 10-10 team from Weston, Connecticut, would be in the state championship this year with one senior."

In the end, seniors -- or Weston's lack thereof -- proved to be the difference against an experienced Valley squad that still had many players remaining from its 2011 Class S championship team. Valley had also won the Shoreline Conference earlier this season.

Weston led by as many as eight early in the second and was up 20-17 at halftime, thanks to its defense, which forced nine turnovers and held Valley to 26 percent shooting.

The Trojans ultimately couldn't recover from a game-changing 14-2 run to close the third quarter by the Warriors, who won their 22nd straight game.

"We just focused on our mission to win a state championship," Valley senior Chris Polo said. "It didn't matter who we were playing or what their story was."

During the run the Warriors got big 3-point shots from Polo, Chris Connor and Christopher Jean-Pierre. Polo and Connor each finished with 12 to co-lead Valley.

Trailing 36-29, Weston still had a little magic left over at the start of the fourth quarter. Asher Lee-Tyson hit back-to-back 3-pointers, while DiPasquale added another from beyond the arc to keep the Trojans in distance at 43-38.

DiPasquale, Weston's go-to guy and lone senior, kept hustling. He made a layup and was fouled to make the score 45-40. He missed the foul shot and got his own rebound and was fouled again, making both to turn it into a three-point game.

"That kid is a warrior," Hvizdo said. "He gave 110 percent until the last second of that game."

Another pair of free throws by DiPasquale -- after Polo had made a pair -- kept the Trojans within three. They never got any closer. With 52 seconds left Warriors senior Sean Cunningham made a strong drive to the basket, finishing with his left hand to make it 49-44.

"We knew we were experienced," Valley coach Kevin Woods said. "We have six great seniors. We knew if we got close we'd put it in the hands of those guys."

DiPasquale again drove to the basket and was fouled making one. Again he got his own rebound and kicked it out to Lee-Tyson for a 3-pointer that was off the mark, allowing Valley to finally put an end to Weston's tournament run.

"It was amazing," DiPasquale said. "It was a great run. We all played as hard as we could. It was the coolest thing I've ever been a part of. It's amazing just to get here."

Class M final at Mohegan Sun Arena

VALLEY REGIONAL 52, WESTON 45

WESTON (14-12)

Ethan Lee-Tyson 1 0-0 2 Asher Lee-Tyson 4 0-0 11 Charlie DiPasquale 7 9-11 24 Grant Limone 3 0-0 6 Pascal Arvoy 0 0-0 0 Troy Flynn 0 0-0 0 Erik Dammen-Brower 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 9-11 45.

VALLEY REGIONAL (26-2)

Mason King 1 1-2 3 Chris Jean-Pierre 3 1-2 10 Jon Luster 2 2-2 6 Chris Connor 5 0-0 12 Chris Polo 4 3-7 12 Jake Luster 0 0-0 0 Sean Cunningham 4 0-0 9 Peter Barry 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 7-13 52.

WESTON 11 9 9 16 -- 45

VALLEY REGIONAL 7 10 19 16 -- 52

3-pointers: W--A. Lee-Tyson 3, DiPasquale; V--Jean-Pierre 3, Connor 2, Polo, Cunningham.

Fouled out: W--Arvoy; V--King.

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