BOYS BASKETBALL: Upset gold slips from Southington’s hands; Xavier rallies from 16-point first-half deficit

MIDDLETOWN — The 5-12 matchup is notorious for one thing: Upsets.

It nearly produced another one Thursday night in the second round of the CIAC Division II state boys basketball tournament.

No. 12 seed Southington looked well on its way to knocking off No. 5 Xavier, but the Blue Knights squandered a 16-point lead in Xavier’s Arthur M. Kohs Gymnasium and ultimately saw their season end in a 56-47 loss.

Southington led by double digits throughout the first half. Xavier, however, chipped away to take its first lead of the game with 5:15 remaining.

SHS scored the game’s first 10 points and led 25-9 in the second quarter.

At halftime, it was 27-16. By the end of three quarters, the lead had winnowed to 36-31.

Aidan Buck’s 3-pointer put the Blue Knights up for the last time, 39-38, with 4:46 to play.

Buck finished with a team-high 12 points along with Ryan Hammarlund.

Southington’s turnaround season ended at 16-8. Southington lost its final 12 games last season and did not qualify for the playoffs.

Xavier improved to 18-5 and advances to next Monday’s quarterfinals to face No. 4 Kennedy in Waterbury.

Anthony Parker led Xavier’s comeback on Thursday. After struggling throughout the first three quarters, the All-SCC guard scored 23 of his game-high 29 points in the second half. Parker came into the game averaging over 27 a contest.

Southington was looking to advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2018.

Instead, Xavier rallied and took its first lead, 38-36, on an inside hoop by Peter O’Brien with 5:15 to play.

After Buck’s 3-pointer momentarily stemmed the tide, Parker made a pair of driving layups to put the Falcons up 43-39 with just over three minutes to play.

The Blue Knights didn’t get closer than three points the rest of the way.

For Southington, Thursday’s second-round game was virtually the reverse of Tuesday’s first-rounder against No. 21 Crosby. In the game, it was the Blue Knights who trailed early — by as many as 19 points in the first half — before rallying to win 66-64.

Against Xavier, Southington couldn’t have asked for a better start. Hammarlund sank two free throws and then hit a driving jumper before Carson Lentini’s 3-pointer put the Blue Knights up 7-0 just 90 seconds into the game.

Another 3-pointer by Hammarlund made it 10-0. A buzzer-beating trey by Dan McGetrick at quarter’s end made it 19-5.

The Falcons’ leader, meanwhile, was struggling to find any offense. Parker missed all nine shots he took in the opening frame and didn’t score until 5:54 was remaining in the first half.

Parker ended up making just 2 of 14 shots in the first half. His first points came on a deep 3-pointer that got the Falcons within 21-12.

Luke Penna answered Parker’s shot with a jumper of his own to restore the Blue Knights’ double-digit lead. Southington then led over the final five minutes of the first half by at least 12 points, helped along by a driving hoop by Hammarlund and a mid-range shot by McGetrick.


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