BRISTOL — When the St. Paul and Derby boys basketball teams meet, history has a way of repeating itself, especially as of late.
It did Tuesday night when just like last season, the Falcons needed overtime to once again beat the Red Raiders, this one in double overtime by a score of 90-89.
And although it was a much needed win for St. Paul (6-5), the team had plenty to take away from the win, some good and some bad.
“I don’t know how well played the game was,” Falcons head coach Steve Phelps said. “It was certainly exciting for the folks here. I feel that Derby deserved a better outcome. Much respect for the way they played and the way they handled themselves.
“I’m going to take the positives from [Tuesday]. We were down five in the first overtime and we executed some things and the guys stuck to their assignments. My coaching staff is phenomenal we were making stuff up on the fly in the overtime and the double overtime defensively to keep them in check. We just held on a little bit longer and Mike Palmeri was where he should have been with two seconds left [for the game winner].”
There were also some lapses for St. Paul.
Before going into the halftime break and up 31-27, the Falcons were acting as if the game was well out of reach. Then, during the last five minutes of the game, St. Paul allowed Derby to score 25 points to even up the score and send them into overtime yet again.
“We got knocked down a couple times throughout the game,” Palmeri said. “The whole first 36 minutes we were thinking, ‘we’re so much better, we’re so much better. Why are we getting beat every possession?’”
Some of that had to do with Jahwan Cody, who racked up 38 points for Derby, including two 3-point buzzer beaters — one at the end of regulation which sent both teams into the first overtime, and another forcing both teams into double overtime.
But the Falcons also knew what they were up against. They had seen this play out before.
“I didn’t even know what to think,” St. Paul’s Tyler Arbuckle said after Cody managed to hit both 3s. “Last year he did the same thing. He hit three [3s] back-to-back-to-back to tie the game and we had good defense, that was the craziest part. Just props to him, he’s probably in the gym all the time.”
In the end, however, the Falcons did what they needed to do to come out with the win.
“I was thinking, ‘now it's time to really go,’” Palmeri said. “I think our team responded pretty well, not only because of the W, but the energy just increased. So we really got into the work mode and took care of business. We just came together and said, ‘Let’s put our foot on their necks and push them into the ground’.”
It took a little longer than St. Paul would have liked, but the Falcons managed to get the result they wanted in the end.
Now, it’s back to practice for St. Paul. And as the Falcons were the first to admit, there are still some things to work on with two wins to go to clinch a postseason post with a little less than half the season remaining.
“We didn’t play well at all,” Arbuckle said. “We were being selfish. Everyone was coming down trying to get their own and we didn’t play at all. If I were to put it out of 10, I would say we played at a three [Tuesday]. We have to stick with moving the ball like coach is always preaching instead of putting the ball on the floor.”
St. Paul also had trouble hitting its free throws. The Falcons shot 61 percent from the line Tuesday evening, making 20-out-of-33 shots.
“We talked for the first 10 games that free throws have been an Achilles heel for us,” Phelps said. “But we can talk about it all we want, and the guys that were shooting free throws were the guys we wanted at the free throw line.”
St. Paul has just a few days before its next matchup. The Falcons will play Wolcott away on Friday at 7 p.m.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org