What would have made one of the improbable, if not the best, high school sports stories in a long time came up seven points short.
In the end, Valley Regional — winners of 22 straight and the Shoreline — had a little too much for Weston in the Class M championship game Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena. (Game story, came be found here.)
Nobody, myself included, would have figured Weston — seeded No. 23 and 10-11 before the start of the tournament — would be the last SWC team standing in the Class M bracket, what with the great regular seasons ND-Fairfield and Bethel had posted.
But there Weston was, winning game after game after coach Mike Hvizdo was reinstated on the eve of the tournament. (By now you know the story, or read a quick primer.) The Trojans won their first game at the buzzer over University, beat Tolland, upset Kaynor Tech and held on to beat Enfield in the semifinals.
It almost seemed to good to be true.
And Friday night, it probably was.
For all the buzz generated by the Hvizdo situation there was still the tiny issue of a basketball game to be played. However you want to look at the Hvizdo thing, it’s not fair to undersell what the Trojans did basketball-wise. The Bunnell graduate and second-year coach tried his best to deflect the attention from him and focus on the wonderful work achieved by his team, which held opponents to under 50 ppg. in the tournament.
“This isn’t about me,” he said. “It’s about these kids that never gave up, no one would have ever thought a 10-10 team from Weston, Connecticut would be in the state championship this year with one senior.”
Valley Regional had six seniors to lean on in crunch time, including Sean Cunningham off the bench. The southpaw put the final dagger in Weston with a very nice drive and finish in the final minute.
For about 20-odd minutes of gametime it seemed another Weston improbable win was about to happen. The Trojans forced turnovers. They hit shots.
It seemed like Charlie DiPasquale, the team’s lone senior, was going to will his team to a win.
Valley Regional, never wilted, or let whatever “magic” Weston had going for it, take over.
There’s something to be said for that since many teams might have collapsed knowing what Weston had done this tournament. The Warriors got up by nine to start the fourth and slowly Weston started making shots from 3. It seemed — hey maybe — this is going to happen again and the final page of a crazy, feel-good script was about to be written.
Valley stayed composed. Ran through its sets and worked the ball down low to Chris Polo for some easy points or foul shots. Senior point guard Jon Luster was sure-handed, too, down the stretch. Valley’s szie and strength then forced Weston into deep jumpers or DiPasquale drives to the rim.
“All I thought about was how our guys had been playing the last 21 games,” Warriors coach Kevin Woods said. “We’ll find a way. I know (Weston has) been playing great and had a great run, but we’ve also been having a pretty good darn run of our own.”
In the end, Valley Regional — forget all the other stuff — was the better basketball team, as shone by their Shoreline championship, 22 straight wins and eventual Class M title.
That said, there’s no reason for Weston players — DiPasquale in particular, who played with gusto and a smile on his face throughout — to hang their heads.
Nobody. NOBODY expected them to be her at the Mohegan Sun tonight, yet they had a chance.
“It was amazing,” DiPasquale said. “It was a great run. We all gave played as hard as we could. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of. It’s amazing just to get here.”
Maybe over time, since Weston didn’t win it, this might be forgotten. The Trojans won’t have a banner to hang alongside the one the John Galvin-led team did a few years ago.
You know what, though, for a long time I have a feeling people will be talking about this, probably saying something along the lines of, “how about Weston, huh?”