SOUTHINGTON — Basketball is a game of runs, but these were some wild, NBA-type swings on Tuesday night between Southington and Avon.
In the end, it took a defensive play to swing the pendulum for good.
Southington senior Devan Bade came up with a key steal at midcourt and scored the go-ahead layup in the final minute as the Blue Knights held off the visiting Falcons 42-38 in a CCC Region B clash.
With the game tied at 38, Bade gambled and won. He jumped the lane and deflected a pass intended for Avon star Jack Hall at midcourt, scooped up the loose ball and coasted in for an easy layup with 1:04 to go.
The play capped a stirring second-half comeback for Southington, which trailed by 13 points at the break. Senior Nick Marecki’s 3-point play tied the game at 38 with 1:28 to play, setting the stage for Bade’s heroics.
“I’m keeping my eyes on Jack Hall, face-guarding him,” Bade said. “But I saw the pass coming, took the risk and got it.
“It was all about the steal. I got the steal and, from then, I’m scoring.”
Bade finished with 10 points, none more important than his final field goal.
“It was just great anticipation,” Southington coach John Cessario said. “And sometimes you have to be lucky to be good. Dev had the ball squirt loose and was able to scoop it up and go.”
After Bade’s layup, Southington forced a turnover on the ensuing Avon possession. Moments later, senior Rick Macioce drew a charge that effectively sealed the win.
Bade hit a pair of free throws for the final margin.
Dylan Olson had 12 points and Aedan Derrick added nine for Southington, which evened its record at 2-2. Hall had 16 points for Avon, also 2-2.
The Falcons led 25-12 at halftime after outscoring Southington 15-4 in the second quarter. The Blue Knights charged back, dominating the third quarter 21-4 to take a 33-29 lead.
“Oh, man! I don’t know what John said at halftime, but he got his boys ready to go,” Avon coach Kris Pedra said.
As for Bade’s crucial steal, Pedra said, “We were trying to get the ball to Jack Hall and the kid just made a great play.”
Clutch plays like Bade’s steal were missing for the Blue Knights in the second quarter when they were outscored 15-4. It was as though a flip was switched in the second half, though. Southington opened with a 10-4 run, which forced an Avon timeout.
The break did nothing to stem the tide. A Derrick 3-point play with 1:49 left in the third pulled Southington to within 29-28 and drew loud roars from the sparse COVID-restricted crowd.
Marecki’s 3-pointer 30 seconds later gave Southington a 31-29 lead — its first since early in the opening quarter — and the Knights carried a 33-29 lead into the fourth.
“Once they made that initial run, it was a ballgame,” Pedra said. “The Southington parents got into it, the JV got into it and we just weren’t ready for it.”
“We played good defense in the first half,” Bade said. “The second half was just about offense and we finally clicked and made some shots.”
What led to the massive turnaround in Cessario’s eyes?
“We committed ourselves to what we wanted to do defensively,” Cessario said. “I told them at halftime, giving up 25 points wasn’t that bad. Scoring 12 was the problem, but we still needed to commit defensively.”