In several ways the Weston High boys basketball team matched up well with Valley Regional of Deep River in the state Class M championship.
The Trojans had the speed as well as the height. Despite being the 23rd seed, they definitely had the desire.
The difference may have come down to experience. The fifth-seeded Warriors, who won the Class S title two years ago, also had six seniors in their lineup last Friday, March 15.
The Trojans, who were making their first state championship appearance since 2007, had only one. While they did hold the lead for most of the first half Valley Regional came back in the second and held on for a 52-45 win at Mohegan Sun in Montville.
“They were a lot more comfortable and confident out there,” said Weston head coach Mike Hvizdo. “You have to give credit to those guys. “They took advantage of being seniors and being on that court a couple of years ago.”
Such ended quite a run for the Trojans, who managed three upset victories earlier in the tournament, including one against sixth-ranked Enfield in the semifinals three days earlier. Some key foul shooting down the stretch worked to their advantage in a 53-47 win at Wilbur Cross High in New Haven.
A small and quick team, Enfield had defeated Weston in the second round of last year’s tournament. The Trojans showed they had a score to settle, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter with three-pointers by Asher Lee-Tyson and Charlie DiPasquale.
The latter, however, got into foul trouble early in the night and saw limited playing time in the second quarter. The Trojans still managed to pick up the pace on three-pointers by Asher Lee-Tyson and Troy Flynn and they held the Raiders to single digits in taking a 24-13 lead at halftime.
With DiPasquale still on the bench the Trojans were limited offensively in the third quarter. Asher Lee-Tyson stepped up with two three-pointers to help keep Weston out in front.
Ineffective underneath, as well as struggling from the foul line, Enfield turned to the three-point shot in the fourth quarter and saw some success by sinking five, three courtesy of Paul Lima. By then DiPasquale was back on the court and drew numerous fouls, sinking 11 of 13 shots in the period as the Trojans kept a safe distance.
“I knew in the fourth quarter I had to step it up,” said DiPasquale. “They kept fouling me. I kept hitting my shots.”
He led Weston with 22 points, including one three-pointer. Asher Lee-Tyson sank 15 with four three-pointers and Grant Limone scored six.
Flynn (one three-pointer) scored four and Pascal Arvoy added three. Ethan Lee-Tyson netted one free throw.
Last Friday’s championship marked the Trojans’ first time at Mohegan Sun. Although they had little time to get used to their new surroundings they did keep the Warriors under wraps in the first quarter, holding them to a mere 20% shooting during that time.
Limone’s jumper put the Trojans on the board and with both sides struggling from the field it remained a 2-0 game for nearly three minutes. Valley Regional tied it up on a couple of occasions but Weston answered each time, courtesy of DiPasquale, whose seven-point effort kept the Trojans up 11-7.
The Trojans stretched their lead to as many as eight (15-7) in the next frame before the Warriors came roaring back with the help of consecutive three-pointers by Chris Jean-Pierre as part of a 10-point run. Weston drew a foul with 31 seconds to go and started a five-point run by DiPasquale, who sank three free throws and a lay-up in the time remaining to put Weston back on top 20-17 at halftime.
The tide then turned against the Trojans in the third quarter. With Valley Regional having the advantage in rebounding and the Trojans’ missing the mark more often than not the former took the lead for good on a 10-point run in the last three minutes.
“We missed some good shots,” said Hvizdo. “That was really it. They made some good shots.”
While not regaining the lead, Weston was within striking distance until the last minute. DiPasquale was fouled with 42 seconds left, sinking one free throw to make it 49-45 but Weston was forced to foul as time grew short and the Warriors sank three shots from the line in the time remaining to seal the win.
“The kids never gave up.” said Hvizdo, whose team finishes the season at 14-12. “We exceeded everyone’s expectations.
DiPasquale led all scorers in his final high school game with 24 points, including one three-pointer. Asher Lee-Tyson scored 11 with three three-pointers.
Limone scored six and had seven rebounds while Arvoy had 10 rebounds. Ethan Lee-Tyson and Erik Dammen-Brower scored two apiece.
“Just to even be here was huge,” said DiPasquale. “I love these guys. We played a hard game.”