Capital Prep head coach Levi Gillespie said it best: Wedneday’s game between his Trailblazers and Somers felt like a playoff game, not a regular-season game in the middle of January.
Each team entered the game with eight wins through their first nine games, and were among the first in the state to clinch spots in the playoffs; Capital Prep in Division III, Somers in Division V.
The atmosphere reflected the talent and ability of both teams, two programs which plan on playing well into March. The Trailblazers (9-1), though, played a hair better than the Spartans (8-2) to win, 51-45.
“[Somers] has a really good team,” Gillespie said. “They’ve got size, they’ve got some athleticism, they’ve got shooting, they’ve got ball handling. Us, having the season that we did last year and being able to weather the storms this year, I think [this win] is huge for us. It was like a playoff-type feel to the game.”
It came to a few blocks by Capital Prep sophomores Quincy Ferguson and Keyshawn Mitchell and some clutch shots from senior Jalen Gordon (team-high 15 points) that helped the Trailblazers pull out the win. With Prep leading 43-39 with just over two minutes remaining following a Gordon layup, Somers senior Derek Hostetler (team-high 15 points) stole the ball and drove down the court, and kicked it to senior Alex Barresi, who drove to the hoop and was blocked by Ferguson.
Gordon sunk a layup on the ensuing possession to give Capital Prep a six-point lead. Moments later, Mitchell blocked Somers sophomore Cody Palazzesi at the rim to protect the lead with less than 90 seconds left.
The Spartans would score again, on two free throws and a layup from Hostetler, though the Trailblazers’ defense and poise at the free throw line (Gordon, Mitchell and senior Solomon Barlow went 4-for-5 in the final minute) helped stymie a Somers comeback.
“It was all mental,” said Ferguson, who scored nine points for Capital Prep. “We had to make the right plays, hold the balls, not make any turnovers.”
Somers led 15-11 after the first quarter, as the Trailblazers struggled to penetrate the Spartans’ zone defense. The Trailblazers went on a 15-0 run to close out the second quarter leading 31-22, as Ferguson, Mitchell and Gordon did much of the damage.
Capital Prep would never trail again, though Somers went on a 8-0 run to open the third quarter, and trailed by just a point heading into the fourth.
“We’re just going to grow from this,” said Somers coach John Hostetler. “This is why we scheduled this. I was excited when [Gillespie} wanted to play us. I think last year, the stage got too big for us. We need to play in meaningful games. It’s all about getting ready for March.”
By Shawn McFarland
Hartford Courant |
Jan 15, 2020 | 9:33 PM