STRATFORD—Pat Yerina knows his way around Stratford High School’s Needham Gym.
After all, the Joel Barlow boys basketball coach had spent 21 years coaching across town at Bunnell, but he was still a little confused during Saturday’s Stratford Holiday Tournament championship game against the host Red Devils.
“The other day, I was over there and today we’re over here,” Yerina said of leading his team from two different viewpoints in the tournament.
The one thing Yerina’s Falcons were not was confused as Barlow won the tournament title with a 61-43 victory over Stratford.
“We like to keep things under 50 (points defensively) and that was a good number for us today,” Yerina said. “(Stratford has) some guys who can shoot and we wanted to take away the 3-point shot and we did that today.”
In fact, Stratford only made two 3-point shots the entire game as they fell behind early and weren’t able to catch up to the Falcons, who dominated the glass and limited the Red Devils to just 12 caroms total.
“I think they completely out-worked us, completely out-toughed us for a majority of the game,” Stratford coach Tim Swaller said. “We put ourselves in a hole and trying to play catchup is tough to do.”
Barlow raced out to a 21- 13 lead after the first quarter and grew that advantage to 37-27 at the half.
By the end of the third, the lead was 12 and Stratford was falling to 2-2 on the season as it saw its modest two-game win streak snapped.
The Red Devils played great in the first round of the tournament, knocking off FCIAC stronghold Trumbull by a 64-63 score.
Where that team was on Friday left Swaller baffled.
“That’s the conversation we just had,” Swaller said of his postgame chat with the team. “We played great against Trumbull and tonight, we talked about league rival, playing for a championship, and like I said they dictated everything and completely outworked us. We let them do whatever they wanted.”
Barlow was balanced offensively as Tom Richetelli had 16 points, Carter Janki had 14 and Clark Gilmore added 12.
For Stratford, Jayquan Kirkland had 17 points and Joe August added 15.
Thirteen of their combined 32 points came from the foul line.
Swaller said the team just needs to put the game behind it while embracing the lessons learned.
“I hope so. It’s a game where we didn’t play well, we didn’t shoot well, we didn’t do a lot of things well,” he said. “We have to put it in the rear-view mirror and regroup. If we’re going to have effort likes this, I don’t care who you play, you’re not going to win many games.
The Red Devils will have no problems getting refocused. They will host Bunnell on Monday, Jan 6, at 7 p.m.
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