STRATFORD—It had been 11 days since the Stratford boys basketball team had played a meaningful game.
That’s a long time for the bitter taste of an SWC quarterfinal defeat to fester.
Coach Tim Swaller and his team used the time off wisely, however, and it was Plainfield that felt Stratford’s wrath as the Red Devils posted a 65-51 victory in the first round of the CIAC’s Division III state tournament at the Needham Memorial Gym on Tuesday night.
“Our last three days of practice were great,” Swaller said as his team improved to 14-8 on the season. “We practiced hard, we did a lot of things well and it showed tonight. We played with a lot of energy tonight. It was great energy and the guys fed off each other and we were able to get positive results.”
Jack Ryan scored nine of his game-high 26 points in the first quarter to lead the 12th-seeded Red Devils. Joe August added 17 points while Mike August chipped in 10 more.
“I think we wanted this game bad,” said Ryan, whose team lost to Kolbe Cathedral, 61-56, in the SWC quarterfinals on Feb. 22. “The Kolbe game, we knew that wasn’t us. We just wanted to come out here and play well. It was a huge game for us.”
It was Ryan, the senior point guard, who set the tone early.
He scored Stratford’s first four points and it was his 3-pointer midway through the opening quarter that put the Red Devils up 12-4.
After No. 21 Plainfield (8-12) scored a basket, Ryan set up Joe August for a bucket before adding another score of his own to push the lead to 16-6.
“We wanted to start fast and set the tone,” Ryan said.
The closest the visiting Panthers got from there was six points.
“Jack stepped up,” Swaller said. “He had a quick basket early and was in full stride from there and everybody else was in the same mode. Everybody played well.”
Ryan and Mike August combined for 14 assists while Joe August and Preston Williams combined for 13 rebounds to add to the victory.
The game also marked the return of senior guard John Bike, who had missed a month of action due to an ankle injury.
“It felt great,” Bike said. “It’s been a while, around a month that I hadn’t played. It was probably one of the worst sports things I’ve been through, not being able to play with my friends. We’re all so close. I’m just glad to be back for states, and let’s make a run.”
Bike didn’t score in the game, but he—along with Zack Fedak–did help play clutch defense for the Red Devils.
“He got cleared last week and he’s been practicing,” Swaller said. “This was his first live action, so it was good to get him out there and get a feel for being back in the rhythm and he’ll be ready to go on Thursday.”
On Thursday, Stratford will make the 50-mile trek to Torrington to face the fifth-seeded Red Raiders (15-5). Torrington had received a first-round bye.
“They’re good,” Swaller said. “We’ve seen them twice. They’re balanced. They have some athleticism. We expect that if we go in and play our game, it’ll be a heckuva game.”
STRATFORD 65, PLAINFIELD 51
Lucian Dube 1 0-0 3, Elijah Brady 0 0-0 0, Jalen Arriaga 1 0-0 3, Henry Russell 1 2-2 4, Tyler Adhearn 5 0-0 10, Bryce Carchedi 4 0-0 10, Kyle Holt 2 0-0 4, Breh Weloy 1 0-0 2, Markeith Conyers 5 5-6 15, Totals: 20 7-8 51.
Zack Fedak 1 0-2 3, Jack Ryan 11 3-4 26, Mike August 4 1-3 10, Joe August 6 4-5 17, Preston Williams 3 0-0 7, Mike D’Aolia 1 0-0 2, John Bike 0 0-0 0, Kyle Robinson 0 0-0 0, Tyler Cicia 0 0-0 0, Scott Knorr 0 0-0 0, Brady Knorr 0 0-0 0, George Eyerman 0 0-0 0, Totals: 26 8-14 65.
PLAINFIELD 11 14 11 15—51
STRATFORD 20 15 15 15—65
3-pointers: P—Carchedi 2, Arriaga, Dube; S—Fedak, M. August, J. August, Ryan, Williams.