PLYMOUTH â€• Trailing by 10 in the second quarter of the season opener was not what the Terryville boys basketball team envisioned for the start of its year as reigning Berkshire League Champions.
Led by senior Dominick Dao, who dropped 21 points in the first half in their season-ending game against Nonnewaug, the Kangaroos expected to have another strong season and compete in their league, but were not playing that way at the start of their first game of the year. They found their rhythm by the end of the game, beating Litchfield 41-38, and barely strayed off since, finishing their regular season Wednesday holding first place in the Berkshire League and Division V with a 19-1 record.
Terryville won its conference last year in the abridged season caused by covid, and will look to repeat as tournament champions to put an exclamation point on a nearly-flawless complete season in 2021-22. The team will then move on to the Division V State Tournament looking to avenge the team from two years ago that had its run cut short after winning its first-round game.
â€śI know itâ€™s something thatâ€™s been on the guysâ€™ minds and I didnâ€™t want them thinking about it day in and day out,â€ť head coach Mark Fowler said. â€śNow that weâ€™re here in the postseason, itâ€™s a whole new season and weâ€™re starting over from scratch. Weâ€™re excited to go and I feel good about where we can be when you have someone like Dom in your corner.â€ť
The Kangaroos enter the Berkshire League Tournament on a 15-game winning streak and undefeated in the conference. Their only loss this season came against the Sports and Medical Sciences Academy, the second-place team in Division V, on Dec. 28.
Since the loss, Terryville has won its games by an average of 23 points with only two contests decided by fewer than 10. Anchored by Daoâ€™s prolific scoring, the players around are gaining confidence in how they contribute with every game.
â€ś[Dao] is a superstar,â€ť Fowler said. â€śI like our chances going into every game with what he does, but the thing thatâ€™s really made us better is our supporting guys have really stepped up and are hitting shots and making plays. I think thatâ€™s whatâ€™s raised our level to where we can be a real contender.â€ť
The Kangaroosâ€™ will open their postseason against eighth-seeded Gilbert (2-17), a team they beat by 58 earlier this season. The challenges will come later in the tournament as they will face Litchfield or Nonnewaug, the only team to take them to overtime, in the conference semifinals.
â€śWe have a target on our backs so we have to keep playing hard every game because everyone is going to want to upset us and beat us,â€ť Dao said.
On the court, Fowler believes the key to his teamâ€™s success in its most important games of the season will be rebounding. Dao and fellow senior captain Jake Rinkavage are Terryvilleâ€™s leaders on the boards, but everyone will need to go after the ball to keep teams from scoring too much.
â€śI think we always have room to improve on our rebounding,â€ť Fowler said. â€śWeâ€™re a smaller team, so being able to secure misses and not give them numerous opportunities is going to be really important.â€ť
Terryville has five boys basketball state championships in its history, going back as far as 1928, with the most recent title coming in 1995. Fowler is a part of the townâ€™s storried basketball legacy and he knows and wants to see this group of players earn the same immortalization, not just as a testament to their own greatness, but the teams that came just before them that never had a fair shot.
â€śThese guys know a lot about the players that have come before them that are stars and they feel like they have shoes to fill,â€ť Fowler said. â€śThey want to be a part of the Terryville basketball legacy and theyâ€™re writing their own pages right now.â€ť
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com.