File photo: Zak Cunningham (third from right), Antonio Dadario (to his right) and the rest of the Hale-Ray basketball team qualified for the CIAC Division V tournament after beating East Hampton on Tuesday.
When East Hampton’s 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer Tuesday night, Hale-Ray’s boys basketball team knew it had tucked away more than another Shoreline Conference victory.
The Noises will be going to the state tournament for the first time since the 2010-11 after holding off the host Bellringers 57-54.
The victory is the eighth for Hale-Ray, double its total from last season. The Noises got a big game from their big man, 6-foot-3 senior Zak Cunningham, who scored a game-high 24 points.
“The kids were thrilled. It was just an unbelievable night,” Hale-Ray coach Corey Zdunczyk said. “East Hampton is just so well-coached and well-prepared. We knew it would take a great effort to beat them.
“Obviously, getting the eighth win, they knew how important that was for this program. Some of the kids have been talking about it since middle of last year. They put in the offseason work to make this happen. The kids wanted to be a playoff team and they deserved to have that happen for them.”
Hale-Ray had a 55-54 lead and the ball with 50 seconds left, but turned it over. The Noises fouled at the other end, but East Hampton came up empty on its two free-throw attempts.
With the Bellringers now forced to foul in order to get the ball back, Loudon Chupas made two free throws with 11 seconds for what turned out to be the winning margin.
Cunningham’s offensive game stood out, but the supporting cast of Chupas (9 points), Antonio Dadario (8 points), Matt Conroy (8 points) and Jacob Soucier (8 points) was critical to the victory.
“We’ve had nine guys who have scored in double figures at least once this year,” Zdunczyk said. “Ideally you want to have a bunch of guys who can shoot it and score. Hopefully that plays to our advantage going forward. That sort of balance has helped us be successful on any given night. Balance is huge for us.”
Hale-Ray (8-5) outscored East Hampton 22-8 in the first quarter, but the Bellringers flipped the script in the second, leaving the game tied at 30 at halftime.
The Noises took a 50-46 lead into the final quarter and wound up scoring only seven points in the final eight minutes. Their defense, however, allowed just eight.
“Fortunately, we made some stops,” said Zdunczyk, in his second season as Hale-Ray’s coach. “We slowed things up and held the ball for a few minutes when we had a little bit of a lead. You don’t expect to win too many games scoring seven points in the fourth quarter. We did just enough (to win).”
East Hampton (7-4) had a three-game winning streak coming into the game. Stephen Brady led the Bellringers with 13 points, while Ted Zhao and Jye Lynch scored 12 apiece.
Hale-Ray improved to 7-1 on the road this season.
“I think it says a lot about the kids that they have won seven of eight road games,” Zdunczyk said. “They have faced some adversity and like tonight, they came out on top. This is a mature group and a group of kids who want to do well so badly.”
“They are fun to coach,” he added. “They allow me to just coach basketball and their attitude is wonderful. They want to make a (winning) change in the program and deserved to have this happen for them tonight. They are excited to have a third of the season left where we can build off of this excitement.”
Zak Cunningham 11 1 24, Jacob Soucier 3 0 8, Matt Conroy 3 1 8, Antonio Dadario 3 0 8, Loudon Chupas 3 3 9, Cody Velikaneye 0 0 0, Talo Ciccarello 0 0 0. Totals 23 5 57.
EAST HAMPTON (54)
Chris Progano 0 0 0, Ted Zhao 4 4 12, Dan Cascio 0 0 0, Drew DiStefano 1 1 1, Grant Arcidiacono 2 0 5, Max Karrenberg 1 0 3, Stephen Brady 6 1 13, Jack Blakey 1 0 2, Jye Lynch 5 2 12, Chris Weyrauch 2 0 4. Totals 22 8 54.
Score By Quarters
HR 22 8 20 7—57
EH 8 22 16 8—54
3-Pointers: HR–Dadario 2, Soucier 2, Conroy, Cunningham; EH–Karrenberg, Arcidiacono.
- Hale-Ray hosts Portland, Feb. 4, 7pm
- East Hampton at Old Lyme, Friday, 7pm