Knights Keep Tourney Hopes Alive

By Matt Stevens

EAST GRANBY – Using desperation as motivation, the Ellington boys basketball team needed a win against an upstart young East Granby team to keep the hope of a state tournament alive. The Knights ot 19 points from senior Ricardo Papa to grab a 48-37 victory over the Crusaders.

Ellington’s first points came on a three by senior Randy Philavong, and the Knights got out to an early lead, stretching it into double-digits at several points in the first half.

The Knights were up 26-16 at halftime, but the Crusaders, who are a young squad (Ryan Vanags is the team’s lone senior), made it a game in the second half, cutting the deficit to five points in the third, and then to just four points with a minute to go in the fourth, after a three-pointer by Jonathan Wilson.

East Granby tried fouling late, but Ellington got the ball into the hands of Papa, who nailed five of nine free throws in the fourth to keep the door shut on the Crusaders.

Papa’s 19 points lead all scorers. Dan Leonard added 8 for the Knights, and Zack Mozzer had 7. Vanags lead East Granby with 9, while Wilson and Jameson Gill each had 8.

“My teammates got me the ball and put me in positions to succeed,” Papa said. “I just made the shots.”

Ellington (6-13) still needs to win its last game against Amistad on Feb. 22, and would need other teams to lose to get into the Class M tournament bracket. Knights’ coach Don Flint said that his team – especially the seniors – were focused knowing that every game is a must-win at this point.

“These seniors have come together in the last six games,” Flint said, “even though we’ve lost some tight ones, they haven’t lost faith. They’re just working hard. The desperation is driving them, and it’s driving them together. This is a big win for us. [We need] one more.”

Flint gave a lot of credit to East Granby for not making it easy.

“They’re young and they’re scrappy,” he said. “I thought they were awesome. They’re better than their record (2-17) just like we’re better than our record.”

Flint said there really isn’t anything else he can do to prepare his player for the final game.

“It’s all up to them now,” he said. “Coaching is overrated at this point. We can do X’s and O’s, but the most important ingredient on the team is that they have to want it. These kids now want it. Our 8 seniors are playing well. The effort is there.”

“We just keep going 1-0,” Papa said. “We’ve just got to win every one from now on.”

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