Spartans denied by Mustangs in title game
UNCASVILLE — Give Immaculate a decent lead and the Iron Five will just grind it out on offense until you find a way to take the ball from them.
Amity never figured out how to solve the Mustangs on offense and the No. 2 seed sliced No. 9 Amity to shreds in the second half, taking the Division II state championship going away 53-34 Saturday night before 4,996 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
“It’s a team win tonight, an absolute team win,” Immaculate coach Nelson Mingachos said. “We needed to get that lead. Once we got that lead, then we could spread them out. Our guys, I feel, can take anyone to the basket once we spread them, they have great vision on the court.”
Immaculate (22-5) held Amity (20-7) to just one field goal in the fourth quarter, three overall points in the final period and 11 points in the second half. It was the lowest point total in a CIAC boys state final since 2009.
“We came out and once you get to a certain point, you can’t stay in that zone,” Amity coach Jeff Nielsen said. “We went man in the fourth. They are patient and they knock down shots. We played as best as we could. For little guys (Immaculate starts no one over 5-foot-11), they fight on the backboards and don’t make anything easy.”
The Iron Five didn’t come out until the final minute, game well in hand. Quinn Guth led the Mustangs with 18 points while Jack Woods and Isaiah Payton each had 13.
Ronan Doherty had just two points in his final performance for Immaculate, but it was his contributions on the other end of the court that made a huge difference and earned him the game ball from his team.
Doherty drew the defensive assignment on SCC Player of the Year Tyler Thomas. After a 16-point first half, Thomas had just one second-half point in his final performance for the Spartans.
“This (ball) is going to go next to my 1,000-point ball,” Doherty said. “Coming into the second half, once he got past half-court, we tried to bring a double-(team) so he could give up the ball. It worked. He is a great shooter. I had to make the shots as tough as I could for him. I knew he would get his. I just had to do my best to lock him down.”
The 17 points left Thomas, who played for just three years, two points short of the all-time school scoring record, held by Ed Goldstone. Thomas finished with 1,533 career points.
Thomas wouldn’t blame his left wrist, which he injured on a dunk attempt against Newtown and reinjured it early in Saturday’s second half.
“Honestly, I thought I missed shots I usually make,” Thomas said. “I’m not going to blame the wrist. This run was amazing. We are all brothers. We all have each others backs, even though we won’t be together in this type of sports setting again.”
With Thomas cold, Amity, making its first appearance in a state final, had nowhere else to go. Tanner Thomas was next with six points.
Tyler Thomas was on fire from the start, finishing with eight points in each of the first two quarters. He hit two three-point shots in each period.
Immaculate ran off the last six points of the first half with Jack Woods scoring just before the halftime buzzer sounded to give the Mustangs a 26-23 lead.
The Thomas brothers combined for 20 of The Spartans’ 23 points in the first half.
“It’s a historical season for us, making it to the semis, winning that game, making it to the state finals both firsts in school history,” Nielsen said. “We are losing a lot and Tyler Thomas, I don’t know if anyone has done more for our program in three years than he has, in terms of making us a better team and making us better players.”