After a pair of double-digit losses to Avon in the previous five weeks, the Enfield High School boys basketball team entered Wednesday night's NCCC tournament semifinal matchup with one thought in mind: redemption.
The Raiders did redeem themselves, staying even with their rivals through four quarters of regulation time and a pair of overtime periods. However, some clutch free throw shooting by Avon in the third overtime enabled the Falcons to emerge with an 81-73 victory at Granby Memorial High School.
Avon will face Granby in the championship game Thursday at 7 p.m.
The first half was dominated by opposing number 14s. Paul Lima of Enfield had 16 points, including four three-pointers, while Avon's Pat McKearney had a dunk among his 15 points. The Falcons held a 34-32 lead at intermission.
Enfield roared out of the locker room after halftime, with Kevin Camidge scoring the Raiders' first seven points of the second half. Back-to-back threes by Lima and Tom Meskell gave the Raiders a 45-39 lead, but consecutive treys by Avon's Sean Herrmann tied the score.
Enfield grabbed a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but a 10-0 Avon run put the Falcons in front by six with 3:35 to play.
The Raiders came right back with seven straight points; a three-pointer by Sal Spadaro provided Enfield a one-point lead. McKearney canned one free throw to send the game into overtime at 60-60.
The teams were tied 64-64 after the first extra period, but Avon jumped to a three-point lead in the second overtime. A free throw by Camidge and a three-pointer by Spadaro gave the Raiders a one-point edge, but Ryan Marioni's field goal and a pair of free throws put Avon back in front by three.
Spadaro canned a three-pointer with seven seconds left to tie it, then Enfield got the ball back on a steal. Raider head coach Cory O'Connell attempted to call a timeout, but the referees did not hear him over the frenzy of the capacity crowd as time expired, necessitating a third overtime.
A free throw and a basket by McKearney gave Avon a 74-71 lead, then Lima, Josh Gaines and Meskell fouled out of the game for Enfield. The Falcons wrapped up the victory with seven free throws in the final minute.
McKearney led all scorers with 23 points. Marioni had 21, Herrmann drained 19 and Brandon Feinberg contributed 16 for the Falcons.
Lima led Enfield with 19 points, but Avon's targeted defense held him to just three after halftime. Spadaro had a career-high 16 points, while Camidge had 14 and Ra Preston added 10.
Both teams are seeded sixth in their respective divisions in the CIAC state tournament beginning next week. In Class M, Enfield hosts Wilcox Tech Monday at 7 p.m., while in Class L, Avon entertains Farmington Tuesday at 7 p.m.