Terryville boys basketball riding high after upset win in opening round of state tournament

Published on Wednesday, 6 March 2019 21:24


TERRYVILLE - As the tension rose during Tuesday night’s Division V boys basketball state tournament opener between No. 22 Terryville and No. 11 Bullard-Havens Tech, the young and inexperienced Kangaroos were showing no signs of crumbling under the mounting pressure.

Down by three midway through the fourth quarter, junior Albert Molina knocked down his sixth triple in as many attempts to tie the game, leading to a go-ahead jumper by freshman Dominick Dao with 1:25 remaining.

A composed sophomore in Sean O’Donnell iced the game with a lay-up in the game’s final seconds, securing a victory that saw plenty of opportunities for a young team to let the moment get the best of them.

Instead, Terryville excelled thanks to a looseness in its play that only comes from a team that feels like it has nothing to lose.

“We were moving the ball better, playing loose and working with each other instead of being tight and wondering what would happen if we lost the game,” Molina said after his torrid shooting night from beyond the arc. “We just played way better and together as a team.”

Not much is expected from the Kangaroos as a No. 22 seed, which is similar to the team’s expectations midway through the season when they stumbled to a 4-11 record before rattling off four straight wins to qualify for the state tournament.

Free from expectation, Terryville has been thriving.

“I think we realize we’re playing with borrowed money,” head coach Mark Fowler said. “We have nothing to lose. All we have to do is go out there and give it our best run.”

The Kangaroos will again need their best on Thursday night when they travel to face No. 6 Morgan, a team that already escaped a potential upset by squeaking past No. 27 Haddam-Killingworth by two points.

The Huskies used their experience to come up with big shots down the stretch to avoid the upset; but despite a roster that boasts six seniors and eight upperclassmen, Fowler saw enough from his team on Tuesday night to believe that experience won’t be a major factor in Thursday night’s matchup.

“It’s crazy to discount [experience], but after last night where I have a freshman [Dao] who made a game-winning shot, a sophomore [O’Donnell] who made a bunch of big plays and a junior [Molina] who shoots 6-for-6 from the 3-point line in foreign territory, I know we’re ready, even if we’re not the most experienced team,” Fowler said. “Not to discount Morgan’s experience, but I think we grew up really quickly last night.”

The players echo their coach’s assessment. After coming through in the clutch numerous times on Tuesday as well as down the stretch of the regular season, the Kangaroos believe their recent performance on the court means much more than the grade level listed next to their names on the team roster.

“We’ve seen a lot of experienced teams this year,” Molina said. “[Morgan] has high schoolers just like us. We don’t fear anyone, regardless of their grade.”

While Terryville played without fear on Tuesday, the accomplishment of toppling a team with twice as high a seed as their own wasn’t lost on the Kangaroos, who made sure to enjoy the moment after the final buzzer sounded.

“We’ve got a team that doesn’t have a lot of tournament experience, so they were like little kids out there,” Fowler said of the team’s reaction to the win. “They were pretty pumped up. Any time you can go on the road and get a tournament win, you get hyped about that. We don’t take for granted what happened last night.”

Terryville may have nothing to lose, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready to call Tuesday night a satisfying ending to its season.

“I don’t think we’re thinking about last night too much,” Molina said. “That’s done. We’re just going to go in [on Thursday] and scrap and try and come out with a win.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, Terryville on Wednesday, 6 March 2019 21:24. Updated: Wednesday, 6 March 2019 21:27.