Vikings shock Dragons in FAA quarterfinals
Updated 10:45 pm, Thursday, February 23, 2012
On paper, many people expected host GFA to win handily because it entered the game with 15 straight wins, and King headed to Westport with nine straight losses.
In the end, games are settled on the court -- not on paper.
Seventh-seeded King pulled off the unthinkable upset Wednesday, upending the second-seeded Dragons, 64-62. King (8-15) will play at third-seeded Rye today in the FAA semifinals. GFA dropped to 18-4 and awaits its seed for the New England Prep School championships.
"They took us to overtime the first time we played them, and they played well the second time, but we made our shots," Dragons coach Doug Scott said. "We didn't make them today."
King junior center Gullbert Francois virtually insured the upset when he laid in the game-winning layup with 6.5 seconds remaining in the game. This was his second layup in the final minute, his first which gave the Vikings a 64-62 lead.
Junior captain Drew Sawyer set up the game-winner, and was instrumental in carrying King on both ends of the court. Sawyer led everyone with 31 points, mostly off penetration, with two 3-pointers to boot.
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Two things worked in the Vikings' favor. One, they won the turnover battle by forcing 20 Dragon turnovers while committing only 15. Sawyer and Francois led the way with five steals each, while senior captain Chris Gaynor and junior Connor Harris each had two steals.
A potentially even-bigger boost for King was Francois (eight points, 12 rebounds, five blocked shots) winning the battle against 6-10, 250-pound, junior center Sean Obi. Obi has been unstoppable in GFA's winning streak, but the 6-5, 195-pound Francois made him look mortal by winning the battle inside.
Obi (10 points, 10 rebounds, five blocked shots, one assist, one steal) did some good things inside, and he was an intimidator for any Viking who tried to drive inside.
"He did a great job defensively on me, but it wasn't just 34 [Francois], they double-teamed and tripled-teamed me," Obi said.
The Dragons played well in spurts, and led for most of the way after erasing an 18-12 deficit in the first half. GFA had five players score in double figures, and its lead peaked at seven, 35-28 with 14:05 left in the game.
Sophomore Matt Tate (nine points, 10 assists, four steals) energized the Dragons by deftly setting up his teammates inside with crisp passes. Tate mostly fed senior captain Brien Comey (10 points), junior captain Hunter Eggers (12 points) and Pat Ryan (10 points).
Eggers (six rebounds, four assists, one steal, one blocked shot) boosted GFA in all facets. Comey (four rebounds, three assist) and the junior Ryan (five rebounds, four assists, three steals) hit set shots, and complemented Obi inside. Ryan also drew a charge.
Seventh grader Tremont Waters (11 points, two assists) helped keep GFA in front. Waters' third 3-pointer gave the Dragons a 56-53 lead with 4:27 left.
However, Sawyer didn't allow the game to get out of hand, and helped the Vikings come back. He hit some big shots, and came up with clutch steals. King senior captain Matt Regina (18 points) had some clutch baskets.
"It comes down to intensity and focus, and they did what they needed to do," Scott said.
Following a Francois defensive rebound with less than 40 seconds to go, the game looked like it was over. Tate had had other ideas, and his layup off a steal tied it 62-62 with 33.1 seconds to go.
Following Francois' go-ahead shot, GFA had a chance to answer, but Sawyer and Regina prevented Tate from getting off the potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We came out believing that we already won before we started to play, and it cost us," Obi said.
The Dragons hope to learn from this experience, and absorb the lessons at the New England tournament.
"We haven't had the losing feeling since the first week of January," Scott said.
Obi said, "Give King credit, they beat us. We need to focus, and it starts in practice."