Trumbull, CT The Connecticut State Champions United Sons and Daughters 15u AAU basketball team challenged themselves this weekend moving up to play in the 17u division of the Under Armour Summer Showcase. They rose to the occasion, advancing to the title game, and got edged 62-59 in overtime by a talented WBA Warriors team from Massachusetts.
USAD actually faced the same WBA Warriors team in the opening game of pool play. In that game, WBA got out to a fast 19-3 start, but USAD made some great adjustments, and reversed that into a 66-50 win. Isaac Manton (Greens Farms Academy) sparked the turnaround with 13 points that he generated by slashing through Warriors defense. His brother Jacob (GFA), also was a tide-turner, with lock down defense and hitting from beyond the arc. Eventually every member of USAD scored in the game. Bigs Alex Preston (Darien) put in 13 and Sunday Okeke (GFA) added 12 in the low post. Bobby Haskins (Fairfield Prep), Justin Seideman (Staples), CJ Seaforth (Hamden) and Mack Muller (GFA) all stretched the defense with three point accuracy.
USAD advanced to the finals with wins over Connecticut Elite and High Rise Elite. Zak Swetye (Darien) was a defensive leader and Jordan Means (Archbishop Stepinac) was tough to contain on the offensive end.
In the championship game, USAD again fell behind by as much as 15 points to the older team, but battled back to tie the game in the final minute of regulation. Means (10 points), Preston (11), Seideman (8), Seaforth (7), Muller (7) and Okeke (10) all played well enough to win the title, but a brutal 4 for 12 shooting performance at the foul line undermined their ability to seal the deal.
Hartford, CT In a wild day of dramatic basketball on Sunday, the United Sons and Daughters 15u team defended their Connecticut State AAU basketball championship. Two dramatic, double digit comeback, one point victories in their final two games were just enough to bring home another gold medal.
USAD started Sunday, the final day of the tournament, at 8:30am at Bulkeley High School in Hartford facing reigning Basketbull New England Championship finalists, East Coast Elite in the winner's bracket semi-finals. Despite a gutsy 16 point performance by Sean Morris (Brunswick School) and 10 points from Jordan Means (Archbishop Stepinac), USAD could not hold their second half lead. With under two minutes remaining, they trailed by six, and were forced to foul intentionally. ECE made their fouls shots and prevailed 62-50.
That win earned ECE a nice rest break, whereas USAD had to come right back to face Connecticut Playmakers at 11am in the losers' bracket semi-finals. The day before, USAD had used a 24 point performance from Alex Preston (Darien) 13 points from Nik Parker (Weston) and heady plamaking by Evan Roteman (Harvey School) to eke out a last minute 64-62 win over the Playmakers in the quarter-finals. But in this game, the Playmakers came in with fresher legs and a lot of determination. Despite solid decision making by point guards Justin Seideman (Staples) and CJ Seaforth (Hamden), USAD's offense could not gain traction against the highly motivated Playmaker defense. USAD found themselves down by 16 points in the second quarter. After just dropping the emotional opener game to East Coast Elite, the defending state champs were staring to showing signs of cracking against the Playmakers. That all changed once the point guards started finding the hot hand of Carter Scott. The Darien High shooting guard went off for six three pointers, and got USAD back into the game and to a 33-34 half time deficit.
Once Scott had the defense stretching, Morris (18 points) began to slash more effectively and Parker (13 points) was better able to impose his will and muscle down low. These sparks rejuvenated the USAD defense, 6'6" Peter Kotulsky (Norwalk) and Mack Muller (Staples) got fired up and the Playmakers' ability to score started to fade. However, the Playmakers were still playing fierce, championship-caliber defense themselves. After scoring 67 points in the first half, the two teams only managed 44 in the second half. The game ultimately came down to Morris making free throws. He came up big, dropping nine out of 10 attempts, including the game winners.
In the 1:30pm championship, East Coast Elite's supposed edge in the form of confidence and fresher legs ran into a brick wall, named Zak Swetye (Darien). ECE's offense revolves around their point guard, one the state's best players, Joseph Kasperzyk (Hillhouse). In this game, Swetye used a lot of heart and athleticism to pick up Kasperzyk in a full court ball-denial defense. The tactic worked wonderfully, without their star point guard running the show, ECE could not score in the half court sets. Swetye got spelled from time to time by Scott, and then Means took over the duty in the game's late stages.
ECE countered with their own Game 2 bag of fresh defensive tricks. They relentlessly alternated a swarming full court zone press with a trapping full court man2man press and a trapping 1-3-1 half court scheme. Those aggressive schemes forced a slew of USAD turnovers, enabling ECE to score in transition and launch themselves out to 13 point lead by the end of the third quarter.
Maybe it was the recent memory of their big comeback against the Playmakers, or simply the late game benefits of being able to draw on such a deep roster, but USAD started solving the ECE defenses and made a complete comeback in the fourth quarter.
With a state title on the line, neither team would quit, and the lead ended up changing hands five times in the final two minutes. Again, it would come down to Sean Morris at the free throw line. The gifted Brunswick freshman had found a crack in the ECE defense with only eight seconds remaining, and exploded toward the rim. ECE fouled him hard causing him to miss. He sunk both free throws to reverse the one point lead. From that point on Seideman, Means, and Morris challenged the ball to burn final seconds off of the clock. Kasperzyk did get a shot off at the buzzer, but he had to make it over the 6'7" Preston, and that didn't happen. Kotulsky secured the rebound at the rim...and the state championship.