STRATFORD–After perusing the film of Tuesday’s season finale, Elijah Alexandre knew his team had to set the tone early.
During their rematch against Newtown on Friday, that’s exactly what the Bulldogs did.
The senior guard took immediate charge, scoring nine of Bunnell’s first 13 points en route to a 65-52 quarterfinal win in the opening round of the SWC tournament.
Alexandre’s second field goal of the night dropped a mere 27 seconds into the game, forcing Newtown to take their first timeout.
“When we came out slow Tuesday, Newtown jumped on us. We knew we had to jump on them early tonight, not let up, and keep going,” Alexandre said.
Although not as high scoring as Tuesday’s 78-75 thriller, Friday’s rematch was historic: Bulldogs junior Maximus Edwards broke the school’s all-time scoring record in the third quarter with an empathetic dunk off of an alley-oop.
The junior star scored 14 points in the fourth quarter alone, while finishing with 28 for the game.
“It’s a great feeling to break the record as a junior. It was even better that we got a win to advance to the second round,” Edwards said.
The previous mark of 1,468 points was held by Isaac Vann.
Perhaps Edwards’ best moment came with three minutes left in the game.
With Bunnell leading 54-46, Newtown coach Tim Tallcouch signaled his defense to apply man pressure at the top of the key.
Edwards took the defender Tallcouch sent him off the dribble, stepped back, and drilled a dagger three-point shot sending the crowd into a frenzy.
That bucket extended Bunnell’s lead to 11 and put the Nighthawks away for good.
Edwards, who knew he had a mismatch on the play, wasn’t afraid to take the big shot.
“When my team needs a bucket, they can put the ball in my hands,” he said. “When we have a crowd and we’re on our game, I feel like we are unstoppable.”
The Dawg Pound student section made it difficult for visiting Newtown’s rhythm all night and was a big reason why the Nighthawks struggled.
“It was good to get the crowd into it and it gave us that emotional lift,” first-year Bunnell coach Dannie Powell said.
Senior Khalid Moreland finished with 15 points for the Bulldogs and Alexandre finished with 16.
Robert Disibio was the leading scorer for the Nighthawks with 13. Newtown’s Jack Petersen, who had 7 first half points, fouled out with two minutes to go in the game.
The Nighthawks will go back to the drawing board to prepare for the state tournament which starts in early March.
The Bulldogs now shift their focus to Monday night to host No. 6 seed Kolbe Cathedral in the SWC semis.
The Cougars defeated third-seeded Stratford in the quarterfinals Friday night 61-54.
Bunnell 65, Newtown 52
Riley Ward 1 0-0 2; Tucker Garrity 3 0-0 6; Robert Disibio 6 1-3 13; Todd Petersen 5 0-0 11; Jack Petersen 4 2-2 12; Jack Mulligan 3 2-3 8; 22 6-9 52
Khalid Moreland 6 2-4 15; Maximus Edwards 10 3-4 28; Elijah Alexandre 7 0-0 16; Derrick Gyimah 1 1-2 3; Kevin Lanham 1 0 0-0 3; 6 19 6-10 65
Newtown 14 13 11 14 — 52
Bunnell 13 12 18 22 —65
3-pointers: N—T. Peterson 1, J Peterson 2; B—Edwards 2, Alexandre 2, Moreland, Lanham