BRISTOL - Three area teams qualified for their respective boys basketball state tournaments and on Wednesday, they learned their first-round opponents.
St. Paul earned the No. 8 seed in the Class S tournament and will host another one of the local playoff teams: No. 25-ranked Terryville. The Falcons finished the regular season with a 15-5 record and on a nine-game winning streak.
Last season, St. Paul entered the tournament as the No. 31 seed but was able to knock off SMSA, Class S’s No. 2 seed, in the first round. This is the Falcons’ 10th consecutive season qualifying for the state tournament, whether it was Class S or M.
On Tuesday, Mar. 7, the Kangaroos will have to drive less than eight miles to their first-round matchup at St. Paul. Terryville opened its regular season by losing five of its first six games. After that start, the Kangaroos put up a 9-5 record to finish at 10-10 and clinch a tournament berth.
“It gives us, definitely, a good feeling to climb back to .500 after being in such a hole to start the season,” Terryville coach Mark Fowler said. “But we know we’ve got a really well-coached, tough opponent. Coach Phelps runs a great program. We will have our hands full. But we’re going to come in and hopefully do some good things and give them our best shot.”
Under interim head coach David Alarcon last season, the Kangaroos made an early exit from the Class S tournament last season, losing in a play-in game as the No. 33 seed. But for each of the three seasons before that, under Fowler, Terryville reached the tournament quarterfinal round. The team even earned the class’ No. 2 seed in 2014. The Kangaroos have also been in six consecutive tournaments including this season.
Terryville’s three seniors - John Grimes, Mike Gudeczauskas and Brad Kozikowski - have been a part of a lot of that success, especially the Kangaroos’ run this year.
“The seniors have set the table with their example of hard work,” Fowler said, “and you always want to reward them with a good showing.”
Rounding out the local postseason teams is Bristol Central. Like Terryville, the Rams finished the season an even 10-10 record and on a hot streak. They won four of their last five games after losing three straight. As Class L’s No. 24 seed, Bristol Central will be visiting No. 9-ranked Windsor on Tuesday, Mar. 7 for a 7 p.m. start.
“It definitely gives us some confidence,” Bristol Central coach Tim Barrette said about his team’s last five games. “We finished strong and we want to carry that momentum.”
The Warriors finished the regular season with a 14-6 record, including two wins against Newington, which the Rams fell to twice.
“[They’re] very athletic,” Barrette said about Windsor. “All five of their players can shoot the three ball. They’re a little bit younger than the typical Windsor team. They only have one or two seniors. We know we’re going to have to do a good job defending the three-point line.”
Bristol Central has reached the postseason every season since 2011, including an appearance in the semifinal round as the No. 3 seed in 2014. The Rams were ousted in the first round of the Class LL tournament in 2015 and were knocked out in a play-in game last season.
“We know we have to play well to win and we have to play well to compete,” Barrette said. “Hopefully we’ll all be on the same page for 32 minutes and give maximum effort and see the result we want at the end of night.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or email@example.com On Twitter: @K_baum30