Basketball: Milford Knights three-peat as league champs

The Milford Knights Blue boys seventh-grade travel basketball team won its third consecutive Milford Knights Basketball League Sunday League title with a thrilling 41-37 come-from-behind victory over Stratford PAL at the James Richetelli Gymnasium at Jonathan Law.

Ethan Long got the defending champs off to a 3-0 lead with a deep three to start the game. Stratford would rally back to lead 7-3 at the end of one quarter.

Nolan McKenna-Hansen hit two free throws to start the second period and Brendan Buchner added a 3-pointer to tie the game at 8. Cole Pleiman had a baseline jumper and Buchner another three. Stratford led 16-13 at the half.

Stratford looked to pull away in the third quarter when the Knights could only muster two field goals, one basket each from McKenna-Hansen and Zach Worzel. That cut a one-time 18-point deficit to 31-18 after three periods.

The Knights went to a pressure defense, led by Riley Jordan and Cole Pleiman, that created turnovers into easy baskets in the fourth quarter. A deep three from John Nieder off a Jordan pass and a baseline jumper from Worzel narrowed the margin to 33-25.

Worzel would add two free throws and Jordan a freebie to made it 33-28.

Buchner hit a jump shot to close it to 33-30, before McKenna-Hansen converted two free throws and followed with a nice up-and-under basket to give the Knights their first lead at 34-33.

Stratford would tie the game at 34 with a free throw with less than two minutes remaining.

On the following inbounds play, Buchner buried a three from the corner to give the Knights a 37-34 lead. A stratford basket and free throw tied things at 37-all.

On the ensuing possession, and riding the hot hand, the Knights called the same out of bounds play again for Buchner, who calmly drained another corner three with 15 seconds left giving the Knights the lead for good 40-37.

Buchner would add a free throw to seal the 41-37 win for Milford.

The Knights were led offensively by Buchner (15 points), McKenna-Hansen (11 points) and Zach Worzel (6 points).

Riley Jordan and Cole Pleiman highlighted the defense.

Jack Aliberti, Aidan Ryan, Jeanerro King, Jacob Cupole and Dominic Difederico chipped in with valuable minutes off the bench.

The path to the championship started with a 28-22 win over St. Thomas of Fairfield in the quarterfinals. The Knights then took on top-seeded Orange in the semifinal, where the Knights cruised to a 32-18 win.