By Sam Rubinstein
While the world waits for college basketball’s NCAA tournament to officially kick off tomorrow, Connecticut has been quietly enjoying its own form of March Madness. Upsets and nail biting games have been common throughout the state these last few weeks and tonight was no exception.
The Brookfield Bobcats took down the Tolland Eagles 73-70 in the class M semifinal at Maloney High School. They will move on to the Class M championship game at Mohegan Sun on Saturday, March 18th where they await the winner of Holy Cross and Bloomfield.
One of the main story lines coming into the game was how the star seniors from each squad would perform under the bright lights. Tolland’s Andrew Jaworski and Brookfield’s Austin Dasilva did not disappoint.
Jaworski, the Babson-bound senior, showed why he has been one of the most underrated players in the state this season. Jaworski, nicknamed “Jaws,” tallied 34 points including six made 3-pointers. He did a tremendous job changing speeds off the high-ball screen where he was able to string out Brookfield’s defenders to open up the floor to create.
While Jaworski was under control and preferred to walk the ball up most possessions, Brookfield’s Dasilva was the opposite. The UConn soccer commit played at one speed: fast.
Dasilva finished with 23 points, 12 of them coming in the 4th. He didn’t have the tightest handle but was extremely shifty and found his way to get into the paint. When he did get to the rim, whether it was a high arc bank shot or an extended finger roll, he found a way to put the ball in the basket. Not only did he hold the keys to the Bobcat offense, he was as scrappy and physical as they come on the defensive end.
Dasilva guarded Jaworksi in the 4th and held him to just five points.
The Bobcats’ 2-2-1 full court zone gave the Eagles trouble to start the game, resulting in several turnovers and several Brookfield fast breaks. Tolland held steady though and began to knock down some perimeter shots.
Jaworski came out in the flow to start the second. He scored a total of 18 points in the quarter alone to give Tolland the lead. Brookfield’s press that worked so well in the first didn’t have as many chances to get set up in the second caused by the fact they only made three field goals. All of the Bobcat misses gave Tolland a chance to walk the ball up and get set up in their half-court offense, where Jaworksi took over.
The Tolland offense continued their high level of play in the second half where they put up another 24 points in the third. This time, though, Brookfield had answers.
David Albanese, Brookfield’s big who also finished with a game high 34 points was automatic around the rim. Turnaround bank shots out of the post, reverse finishes off of offensive rebounds, and even a tip slam off of a Dasilva miss; everything in Albanese’s repertoire was working.
Brookfield kept scraping away at Tolland’s lead and eventually; they pounced on their opportunity.
After a Tolland miss, Dasilva slowly walked the ball up the floor. After the several times of driving to the rim, no one in the gym expected him to pull up from the top of the key. But it’s March; so of course he did. Dasilva sunk the 3 to tie the game at 68-68, sending the Bobcat fan section into a frenzy. A few possessions went back and forth until it was under a minute left. Brookfield’s scattered offense generated a decent look that bounced out. Albanese then grabbed another offensive rebound and finished underneath to take the lead for good.
Tolland had a look in the corner to tie at the buzzer, but the shot was left short and the buzzer sounded.
Along with Jaworski, Tolland was led by Jason Clough’s 16 points and Collin O’Connor’s 10. Brookfield’s Lucas Joshi knocked in 12 points, all off of the trey ball.
Brookfield will play this Saturday, March 18th at 12:30pm, at Mohegan Sun Arena. They await the winner of No. 4 seed Holy Cross and No. 8 seed Bloomfield.