WOODBURY – Valley Regional High School head coach Kevin Brooks did his homework, and knew how to stop Nonnewaug High School in the CIAC Class V tournament.
Brooks’s team just needed to get through a difficult first half Monday night to put his plan in place.
Valley Regional came back from a sizable halftime deficit to defeat the host Chiefs 58-56.
Brooks credited the pressure defense he’d just installed a day earlier at his team’s practice. He got the idea after watching tape of Nonnewaug against Berkshire League champion Wamogo.
However, after watching that game footage, Brooks also thought Nonnewaug would be a pushover despite its 15-4 regular season record.
“Give them credit, they played great defense in the first half and got us out of out game,” Woods said. “Their pressure threw us off a little, but we handled it in the second half which allowed us to get into our pressure.”
Nonnewaug came out strong against Valley Regional and built a 34-19 halftime lead. The Chiefs played a full-court press during most of the first half and forced several turnovers.
But once Valley Regional figured out how to break through Nonnewaug’s press in the opening minutes of the third quarter, they began dominating the Chiefs.
“I wanted to keep [Valley Regional] off guard,” Nonnewaug head coach DeVonne Parker said. “We had an advantage when our press was working. When they got their press going, it turned the corner.”
Valley Regional cut Nonnewaug’s 15-point halftime lead to 8 after three quarters, and took its first lead of the game, 45-44, with 5:40 left in the game.
Gavin Grabowski led all scorers with 19 points, and scored 10 of those points for Valley Regional in the fourth quarter. Teammate Kevin Fasulo scored 8 of his 13 points in the fourth.
John Khazzaka led Nonnewaug with 14 points, while Colby Steinfeld scored 13 and JD Gengenbach 10.
Including the Berkshire League and CIAC playoffs, the Chiefs finished their season with a 17-6 record.
“It was a successful season. Nobody thought we would get this far,” Parker said. “Like I told them downstairs, it was a great learning experience. I consider it a successful season, we just need to learn from it.”