NEWINGTON - The Newington-Darien boys basketball game came down to a battle of old school against new in the first round of the Division II state tournament Tuesday night.
The 21st-seeded Blue Wave, living off the modern recipe of the 3-pointer, drained 12 triples in an effort to advance to the second round, while No. 12 Newington relied on aggressive defense and points in the paint to gain an edge.
Old school basketball triumphed on Tuesday, as Newington pulled away in the second half for a 76-63 win at home, clinching a spot in Wednesday’s second round against No. 5 Amity (16-5), which beat No. 28 Wethersfield.
The Indians’ traditional style was led by Mason Romano, who scored a game-high 26 points, all in the paint or at the free throw line. Teddy Fravel added 10, with all of his scoring coming in the same fashion.
“They have really good shooters on that team,” Romano said. “But we had a little bit of height on [Darien], so we went to the paint and that’s how we won the game.”
Darien’s 3-point attack kept the game close through the first half, but a 10-2 run late in the third quarter for Newington (13-8) gave the Indians a 13-point cushion. The Blue Wave’s sharp-shooting continued with Henry Williams and Miles Drake each knocking down four triples, but their defense had no answer for the Indians’ size at the rim.
Newington’s game-deciding run was fueled by a pair of layups by Louis Egbuna, including one that gave the Indians their largest lead of the game at 13.
“I thought Lou Egbuna turned the game around,” Newington head coach Ed Quick said. “I thought he single-handedly turned it around on his hustle plays, and everyone else fell into place.”
Drake opened the game with a corner 3 to set the tone for the Blue Wave’s evening, but the Indians rattled off 10 straight points to jump ahead by seven, with four points coming from a pair of hook shots by Fravel. The Newington defense forced a pair of turnovers during the early run, both of which resulted in easy layups for Romano.
The Blue Wave (10-11) had a response in the form of nine straight points to take the lead, kickstarted by a 3-pointer from Peter Bredahl. Darien’s lead stood until the final possession of the first quarter, when Romano cleaned up his own miss just before the buzzer after a loose ball was knocked around for almost 10 seconds before Newington finally grabbed possession.
Newington continued to give the Blue Wave problems on offense, using its full-court press to create points in transition and build a six-point advantage. Romano ended the half with 16 points, but Darien kept itself in the game by knocking down five 3-pointers from four different shooters.
The Indians’ lead swelled to 10 early in the third, and it was almost cut to eight when Drake had a fast break opportunity for the Blue Wave, but an emphatic block by Romano, who was trailing the play, sparked a thunderous ovation from the crowd that matched the powerful rejection.
Still, Darien stayed alive thanks to its perimeter shooting, knocking down a pair of triples to cut the lead to five midway through the third, before Egbuna and the Indians pulled away for good.
“We scouted the heck out of them coming in,” Quick said. “We knew (3-point shooting) is what they could do. I thought we didn’t play our best in the first half, but we were ready to move on.”
An alley-oop slam by Romano on a feed from Julian Ortiz with just over a minute left in the fourth sealed the game and put Newington up 17, and sparked “We want Wethersfield” chants from the home crowd, before Amity clinched its win.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com