STRATFORD—On the night the Bunnell High athletic department named its gymnasium after former athletic director David Johnson, it was Stratford’s Mike D’Aloia who owned the place.
The junior guard for the Red Devils netted a career-high 19 points, including four 3-point shots, and dished out six assists to lead Stratford to a 62-58 win on Tuesday night.
It was Stratford’s first season sweep of the Bulldogs since the 2010-11 season, and the Red Devils’ first victory at Bunnell since a 47-33 win on Jan. 4, 2011.
“I thought we had a great team effort,” Stratford coach Tim Swaller said. “Everybody who stepped on the floor contributed in some way, shape or form. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Early on, though, Stratford was making it look too easy.
Scott Knorr netted six points to help Stratford race out to a 10-2 lead and it was D’Aloia who put the finishing touches on a 17-9 first quarter with his trifecta of the game.
When he opened the second quarter with a baseline runner and his second 3-pointer to build the Stratford lead up to 22-9, the Red Devils were rolling early.
“We knew they were going to come out in man and I knew the guy who was guarding me,” said D’Aloia, who netted 14 points in his team’s 58-50 win over Bunnell back on Jan. 6 at Needham Gym. “I knew what I was getting. We’ve been playing against each other for years and we just ran our game plan. Our motto was to stay together and that’s what we did.”
The lead got as high as 13 midway through the second quarter after Joe August swished a 3-pointer from the wing to make it a 30-17 game.
“Stratford just outplayed us,” Bunnell coach Dannie Powell said. “You can’t coach effort. We have to play with energy and we didn’t. They wanted it more.”
The Bulldogs were able to cut the deficit to single digits (35-27) at the half and used a scrappy third quarter to tie things at 46-46 entering the final eight minutes of play.
“They’re a good team,” Swaller said. “It’s a game of runs and we knew they’d go on a run. They weren’t going to roll over on us. When they went on that run, I was proud of my kids for being able to respond to the adversity and make some plays.”
Brady Knorr and D’Aloia both scored for Stratford to offset buckets by Bunnell’s Kevin Lanham and Jaden McDowell to make it a 50-50 game early in the fourth.
August then drained a 23-footer 3-pointer and D’Aloia set up Jaden Perez for a layup, giving Stratford a 55-50 lead with four minutes to play.
“Tonight, if I could crown him right now, I would because he’s the MVP of the game, without a doubt,” August said of D’Aloia. “He hit some huge, made some great plays and just played outstanding.”
Bunnell’s costly mistake came minutes later.
After turning back-to-back Red Devil turnovers into buckets by Nick Rodrigues and Derrik Gyimah, Stratford only led 56-54 with 1:16 to play.
Following a Devils timeout, a defensive missed assignment left Stratford’s Jayquan Kirkland wide open and he was fouled finishing the lay-up, as well.
After sinking the foul shot, Stratford led 59-54.
Down the stretch, the Red Devils (7-9) sank three foul shots to clinch the win and move within a game of qualifying for the state tournament.
“I’ve said it all along: When we play as a team, we’re pretty good,” Swaller said.
In addition to D’Aloia’s 19 points, Kirkland had 14 points and 10 rebounds, August had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Scott Knorr had seven points while his brother Brady Knorr had seven rebounds.
Lanham led Bunnell (6-10) with a game-high 20 points. Gyimah added 16 and Rodrigues had 10.
The Bulldogs still need two wins to make the state tournament. They travel to New Milford (3-12) on Friday before finishing up with Joel Barlow (10-5), Brookfield (2-12) and Newtown (11-5).
Stratford plays at Brookfield on Friday and is at Masuk (10-5) next Tuesday.
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