Bunnell High reserve guard Nick Rodrigues came off the bench to hit two huge 3-point shots that helped the Bulldogs win the 2019 SWC Championship. (Photo by John Nash)

ON THE SIDELINES: Rodrigues’ big shots also helped deliver Bunnell a title

NEWTOWN—For as long as the Frank Scott Bunnell High School stands in the north of end of town, Maximus Edward’s clutch 3-point shot to deliver the SWC Championship to the Bulldog faithful will always be remembered.

Twenty years, 50 years, 100 years … it won’t matter.

Edwards, who is only a junior, had already shot himself into the town’s athletic history books as Bunnell’s all-time leading scorer.

Thursday’s shot, however, was his Maximus moment, if you will.

But it takes a village.

It takes a team.

Sometimes it even takes a JV-swing player to step up and hit shots just as big, if not bigger, than the one that ignites a local social media frenzy.

Bunnell junior guard Nick Rodrigues fires up on of his 3-point shots from Thursday’s SWC championship game win over Immaculate on Thursday in Newtown. (Photo by John Nash)

Meet Nick Rodrigues.

Like Edwards, he is a junior for the Bulldogs, but outside of bleeding Bunnell blue that’s where the comparisons end.

Well, except for the big shot thing.

The Bulldogs were trailing top-seeded Immaculate by 11 points when Rodrigues first set foot on the Newtown High School court on Thursday.

The Mustangs were on the verge of taking a comfortable lead into the fourth and final quarter, if the Bulldogs couldn’t make a quick run.

The first time he touched the ball, on the baseline, Rodrigues let his first shot of the game fly.

Swish.

His next touch?

Another shot.

Swish.

When Edwards finished the third quarter with a lay-in at the buzzer to cap an 8-0 run, all of a sudden instead of being down double digits, the Bulldogs had pulled to within three.

“I’m always ready for my moment,” Rodriques said amongst the madness of the postgame celebration that enveloped him and his teammates. “If I don’t play, I’m keeping my teammates up. But my number was called, and I came out clutch.”

Bunnell’s Nick Rodrigues defends an Immaculate player during Thursday’s SWC championship game win in Newtown. (Photo by John Nash)

There’s another twist to this story, though.

If Rodrigues wasn’t anywhere on Immaculate’s scouting report, there’s a reason why.

Usually, when Bunnell coach Dannie Powell needs a designated 3-point shooter to come off the bench for the Bulldogs, he turns to Kevin Lanham, a sophomore.

Lanham had the flu, however, and was unavailable, so Powell turned to Rodrigues instead.

“Our motto is next man up,” Powell said. “We’ve had other games where Kevin has come in and hit 3s, but Kevin had the flu, so Nick got his shot and he came through.

“The guys trusted him,” Powell added. “He’s a shooter. He makes shots in practice all the time. They knew he could make a shot if they got him the ball.”

With three seconds left on the clock, with Immaculate leading by a single point and the building’s security standing in front of the Mustangs’ student section to prevent a storming of the court, Rodrigues was set up as one of the secondary options in front of the unguarded Bunnell student section.

He sprinted across the court, switching places with Elijah Alexandre, when senior co-captain Josh Giannoni tossed a high inbounds pass from the baseline to Edwards at halfcourt.

“We were supposed to set a down screen for Max and nobody can outjump Max, so we had to get it high,” Powell said.

The down-screen never connected, though, so Edwards had to out-leap a pair of Mustangs.

He turned, dribbled between two Immaculate defenders and rose above the court for one last shot from about 24 feet away.

“I was in the corner and I thought he might pass it to me,” Rodrigues said. “I saw him and shoot, and it looked good. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s in baby!’”

One last swish.

Championship point.

The last of many big shots by all the Bulldogs on a title-winning night that will be remembered at Frank Scott Bunnell High School for a long time to come.

(On the Sidelines is a regular feature column written by Stratford Sports Scene managing editor John Nash)

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