BUNNELL—The million-dollar question lingered all weekend: Would Bunnell High settle for its league title, or would Dannie Powell’s Bulldogs still be hungry for more?
The state received the answer Monday night as the seventh-seeded Bulldogs defeated No. 26 Ledyard 71-55 at the Bunnell gym.
The 2018-2019 SWC champs controlled the pace from start to finish behind Max Edward’s 26 points.
The junior, who tallied seven rebounds and six assists, scored a nearly half of his buckets on thunderous dunks through the paint in transition.
“Last Thursday was exciting, but coach told us we weren’t finished yet and we all knew that,” said Edwards, whose game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer last week gave Bunnell the league title. “So, the next day at practice, we got right to it.”
With the score knotted up at 20 to begin the second quarter, Bunnell took charge going on an 8-0 run to put the Bulldogs ahead at the half.
Ledyard had difficulty dealing with the full-court pressure, which caused the Colonels to turn the ball over all night.
Every time Ledyard tried to get something going, Bunnell answered with points of its own via its smothering defense.
The lead was as large as 18 points with three minutes to go in the third quarter.
A Ken Turner three-point play with 2 minutes to go in the game cut the Bunnell lead to 13, but the Bulldogs poured in too many points on the offensive end for scrappy Ledyard to keep pace.
The win makes it eight straight for Bunnell.
Senior Khalid Moreland added 11 points and Eli Alexandre scored 10 of his own.
Powell pulled the starters with 1:24 to go in the game and his team leading by 16.
Syncere Gray started hot with 10 points in the first quarter for the Colonels, but was held scoreless the rest of the way. Turner led the team in scoring with 15 in his last game for Ledyard.
The offense was the strength Monday, but defense will be the key for Bunnell to improve going forward.
“We have to be more disciplined and stop gambling on defense and just be patient on offense,” Edwards said. “We have to be more patient because we’ll face better teams in the state bracket.”
Bunnell will host the winner of Tuesday night’s game between Northwest Catholic and Stamford. That game was originally scheduled for Monday night, but was postponed due to inclement weather.
Two straight home games to kick off Powell’s first state tournament as head coach has Bunnell feeling confident, but the first-year boss knows for his team to go far, defense must lead the way.
“We know we can play defense, but being able to slide over, stay in front, not gamble, secure the rebound, (stay) mentally focus, be able to execute. All that stuff is crucial,” Powell said.
When asked which opponent he prefers to face in the second round, the coach’s answer was simple.
“It doesn’t matter. We have to be ready for everybody. It’s win or go home.”
BUNNELL 71, LEDYARD 55
Khalid Moreland 5 1-1 11 Max Edwards 11 2-2 26 Elijah Alexandre 4 1-2 10 Derrick Gyimah 1 0-0 2 Jerrod Leak 4 0-0 8 Joshua Giannoni 3 1-1 7 Javon Wilson 3 0-0 7 Tyrone Coleman 0 0-1 0. Totals: 31 5-7 71.
Omar Whitmore 4 0-0 8 Jaiden Bickham 1 0-1 2 Elijah Morton 2 0-2 5 Syncere Gray 4 1-1 10 Ken Turner 6 3-5 15 Dorell Cagel 3 3-3 9 Seamus 3 0-0 6. Totals: 24 7-12 55
BUNNELL 20 13 17 21 — 71
LEDYARD 20 6 10 19 — 55