STRATFORD–It was not pretty, but Bunnell escaped with a victory Wednesday night in the second round of the CIAC Division II state tournament.
The seventh-seeded Bulldogs defeated 10th-seeded Stamford 71-66.
Stamford drained a handful of late threes to get it close, but Khalid Moreland knocked down two free throws with 15 seconds left to seal the win for the Bulldogs.
Behind a strong effort from its supporting cast, Bunnell pulled together to defend its home court and extended its winning streak to 9.
Junior Maximus Edwards finished with 15 points as did Moreland, but it was a plethora of other Bulldogs that propelled the SWC champs to the quarterfinals.
Senior forward Jerrod Leak, senior center Josh Giannoni, and junior Tiyorne Coleman all made big plays in pivotal moments Wednesday to best the Black Knights.
“Jerrod always finds a way to score,” Bunnell coach Dannie Powell said. “We always have people stepping up for us and it was Jerrod who stepped up tonight.”
Leak, who finished with 12 points, hit a three pointer in the first half and converted a crucial put back off of an offensive rebound to give Bunnell an eight-point cushion in the fourth quarter.
Giannoni dominated the boards with six rebounds in the first quarter alone and dabbled from beyond the arc with a big 3-pointer of his own to start the second.
Coleman locked things down on defense, as well.
“On the defensive end, I thought Coleman helped us out, too,” Powell said.
With 2:30 left and the game far from decided, Stamford’s Tyheim Burgess raced ahead of everyone and looked to have an easy breakaway layup.
Coleman came from out of nowhere, and swatted Burgess’ layup attempt, keeping the ball inbounds while also keeping Bunnell’s lead intact.
Stamford, which actually led 44-43 at one point in the third quarter, did not hit big shots when it needed them.
“I thought our effort was fantastic. Last night and tonight were our two best nights of the year as far as effort goes,” Stamford coach Zach Smith said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of these guys.”
The Black Knights gave it everything they had, playing two nights in a row after a 48-47 win in a storm-postponed first round game, but fell just short in Wednesday’s hard-nosed contest.
Jaden Bell finished with 18 points and four 3-pointers. Stamford splashed nine shots beyond the arc as a team.
Wednesday’s game also proved that Bunnell can win when Maximus Edwards’ doesn’t score 25 points.
If the ‘Dogs want to claim a state title, they are going to need stellar performances from everyone on the roster, not just Edwards.
The teams only get better from here on out, especially Bunnell’s next opponent – second-seeded Glastonbury.
The Tomahawks (18-3) defeated 15th-seeded Southington 60-45 Wednesday in its second-round game.
Glastonbury received a first-round bye.
For those that think Bunnell is complacent after winning its first two games in the state tournament, Powell said, “We have a lot of work to do. We’re in the quarterfinals, so we get another day of practice to get better. We have to get after it Friday against a great Glastonbury team.”
BUNNELL 71, STAMFORD 66
Josh Thervil 5 2-2 15; Tyheim Burgess 0 0-0 0; Jalen Lindsey 2 0-0 4; Jay Jaudon 4 3-3 11; Danny Simms 6 4-7 16; Rasheed Constant 1 1-2 3; Jaden Bell 7 0-0 18; Totals 24 10-14 66
Khalid Moreland 4 7-8 15; Max Edwards 5 2-2 15; Elijah Alexandre 4 0-0 10; Jaden McDowell 1 0-0 2; Jerrod Leak 5 1-3 12; Derrick Gyimah 1 1-1 3; Joshua Giannoni 4 1-2 10; Javon Wilson 1 0-0 2 Tiyome Coleman 0 1-3 1; Totals 25 13-19 71
STAMFORD 13 15 18 20 — 66
BUNNELL 16 21 13 21 – 71
3-pointers: S—Thervil 3, Jaudon 2, Bell 4 B—Edwards 3, Alexandre 2, Giannoni, Leak. Records: Stamford 14-9, Bunnell 20-5.