STRATFORD—The Stratford Red Devils didn’t have to look far to find someone to blame for their latest boys basketball loss.
The closest mirror would do just fine.
The bigger problem, though, would be the reflection looking back at the Red Devils.
Stratford’s Jekyll-and-Hyde regular season took a dip once again with Tuesday’s 59-55 overtime loss to Weston inside the Needham Gym.
The Red Devils slipped to below .500 on the season (4-5) with their second straight overtime loss.
Weston improved to 5-5.
“Call it whatever you want,” a frustrated Stratford coach Tim Swaller said. “There is no excuse. We’re a young team, but you saw the game. We were as flat as can be in the first half. Extremely flat. We had a couple of guys act like they didn’t want to be there.”
Despite that, Stratford led 24-22 at the break.
“Can you imagine if we had put some effort in?” Swaller asked.
An 8-2 Weston run to open the third quarter failed to snap Stratford out of its funk.
In fact, the Trojans built a nine-point lead (47-38) with 3:18 left to play.
The Red Devils would hold Weston to one field goal while desperately scrapping its way back into the game.
A conventional 3-point play by Joe August cut the Weston to lead to six.
He would then hit a 3-point shot to make it a 47-44 game with 2:18 to play.
Weston’s Jake Jones—who led all scorers with 22 points—drove to the hoop for two points, but Stratford’s Brady Knorr sank two foul shots and August stole the ball and finished the lay-up to make it a one-point game at 49-48 with 68 seconds to play.
The Red Devils had two chances to take the lead, but they missed the front end of a one-and-one and couldn’t convert a runner in the lane on its next two possessions.
Force to foul with 13.4 seconds, Stratford sent Weston’s Evan Levine to the line for a one-and-one. Levine sank both shots to push the lead back to three at 51-48.
Stratford’s Jayquan Kirkland missed a 3-point shot to tie the game, but point guard Mike D’Aloia corralled the rebound and kicked the ball back out to Kirland on the wing.
The sophomore made the most of his second chance, draining the trifecta at the buzzer to force overtime.
Kirkland then converted a runner to open overtime, giving Stratford a 53-51 lead
“We put ourselves in a position to win, but a majority of that game we were just flat,” Swaller said.
The Red Devils would just score one more basket in the overtime session while the Trojans had four different players score points in the extra session.
Nate Slump’s offensive rebound with nine seconds to play, following a Weston missed foul shot helped clinch the victory.
“We gave each other plenty of chances (to win the game),” Weston coach Jamaal Gibbs said. “It was just grit and grind and a couple of guys stepped up and made some big plays. Whatever it might have been, they made a play.”
In addition to Jones’s effort, Weston got 16 points out of Alex Olson and 11 more from Josh Handel.
August led Stratford with 18 points while Knorr had 16 and Kirkland had 13. No other Red Devils scored more than two points, though.
“Give (Weston) credit,” Swaller said. “Maybe they took us out of a few things and they outrebounded us and were more physical than us.”
Looking in that mirror, though, there have been times this season when Stratford’s potential—seen in wins over Bunnell, Amity, Trumbull, Notre Dame-Fairfield—is absent.
Tuesday was one of those nights.
“We talked about playing hard,” Swaller said. “It just said it has to come from them. I can yell and scream all I want, but we need guys ready to play from the beginning of the game, as if your season is on the line. We’re struggling with that right now.”
Stratford finishes the month with three straight road games, starting with a trip to New Fairfield on Thursday.
Which version of the Red Devils will show up to face 3-5 Rebels?
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