Boys basketball: Danbury’s memorable season ends in heartbreak
TRUMBULL—It was about the worst possible ending to a season for the ages.
Disappointment overtook the faces of the Danbury boys basketball team after a blown late lead submarined one of the best seasons in close to three decades for the Hatters, who fell 76-70 in overtime against the still undefeated Notre Dame-Fairfield Monday night in the Division I quarterfinals.
Through three quarters it was the Danbury side of the Trumbull High gym that made all the noise. The Hatters led by 21 points heading into the final quarter, and a date with former FCIAC rival Bassick in the semifinals appeared a formality.
“The expectation was to make it to the next round and they were confident kids, they were playing really well,” Danbury coach Casey Bock said. “I just feel really bad I didn’t get them to the semis. I wish I figured something out; they played hard and deserved it. I wish they were playing in the semis.”
Everything worked — its zone defense forced turnovers that led to easy baskets at the other end — through three quarters. The chemistry that came to define the group — which finished with a 21-4 record — flowed freely. But the battle between the FCIAC and SWC champions would turn once ND switched to a full-court press out of sheer necessity late on.
Now it was Danbury that began to turn the ball over, and the lead just kept shrinking.
There are few players in the state that could have overturned this deficit, but unfortunately for Danbury one happened to be wearing Lancers white that evening. Senior Tyler Bourne and his best Steph Curry impression produced 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including oh so many clutch threes in the final three minutes as the lead melted.
Danbury held on for overtime as Bourne finally missed in the final seconds, but after scoring the first basket in overtime the Hatters went ice cold from the floor. Layups at the other end built a two-score lead, and the Hatters’ final chance came and went when they missed four 3-point attempts on the same possession trailing 71-68.
By the time the final horn sounded, the Lancers had scored 51 points in 12 minutes of action.
“We scored the first basket so I thought we were back, but definitely it took a lot of our kids having that lead and trying to come back at the end of the game,” Bock said. “I thought we played great for three quarters but we didn’t finish the game. We expected to win so there are no moral victories.”
Pride returned to the Hatters program over the past several years under Bock’s watch. Packed gyms with fans being turned away harkened back to the glory days at the school. Capturing the program’s first FCIAC championship since 1992 was the zenith of a now 60-17 mark the last three seasons.
“I think it was just a continuation of the last three-to-four years, those kids turned the program and set the expectations high,” Bock said. “This talented group just did a great job following their footsteps and doing the right thing. They’re great kids in that locker room.”
The Hatters are set up for another deep run next season as three of their five starters return — Jordon Brown and Cameron Snow played their final game Monday. The FCIAC banner that will always remain in the gym will be the lasting image once the pain from its last game heals.
“They’re going to be upset but hopefully in a week or so they’ll reflect on the season and realize how special the season was,” Bock said.