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DeCicco Lifts Nonnewaug to BL Tourney Title

POSTED March 03, 2016
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn

LITCHFIELD - The third time was the charm for the Nonnewaug boys basketball team thanks to Nick DeCicco.

DeCicco hit a pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds to play to lift the second-seeded Chiefs to a 42-40 victory over top-seeded Northwestern in the Berkshire League Tournament Finals on Wednesday night at Wamogo High School.

The teams shared the Berkshire League regular season title after both finished with a pair of league losses. Northwestern swept the season series and was looking to win another close game against Nonnewaug but it wasn't to be.

DeCicco finished with 16 points and was the only player in the game to reach double-figures. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including the final five points of the game.

With the Chiefs trailing 40-37, Nate Firlings came up with a steal that led to a 3-pointer by DeCicco that tied the game with 1:14 to play. Northwestern ran off some clock, missed a shot and got an offensive rebound and used three timeouts in the span of 40 seconds but was unable to score. Firlings came up with another steal and Nonnewaug called time out with 9.5 seconds to go to set up a final play.

DeCicco drove the lane and there was a collision with Northwestern guard Alex Case that was called a block. DeCicco stepped to the line and made both free throws to give Nonnewaug a 42-40 lead.

"I have to get these in and I wasn't thinking to far ahead at that point," DeCicco said of his thoughts at the line. "I haven't been in that spot before, so I wasn't thinking about anything else except making those free throws. When the second one went down I was happy and started thinking that we were going to pull it off."

The Highlanders' last second heave bounced off the rim and the Chiefs were celebrating a BL title.

"We played well defensively and at the end we made a couple of buckets," Nonnewaug coach Tim Drakeley said. "We haven't won one of these in a while. For the regular season titles we have won we have lost in the tournament so its nice. I think its only the third one we have won out of seven titles. It's nice and nice to beat these guys, we haven't beaten them for a while."

Nonnewaug lost to Northwestern on the road early in the season and at home on Feb. 22. Both games were close and the Chiefs didn't feel they needed to change much going into Wednesday's final except for the final score.

"We were there in both games, so I told them just play your game and do the stuff we have worked on since the first day of practice," Drakeley said. "Take a charge, force weak hand, make a layup, for us that's important."

Case scored nine points, including six in the fourth quarter for Northwestern, which didn't have a player i double figures and didn't score more than 11 points in any quarter.

"Our defense is solid. Ryan Gunnoud works so hard. Jacob Matta works so hard, I think he broke his nose tonight and played through it," Drakeley said. "The team, they just work so hard, how do you teach that. I am just fortunate to have them to coach."

It was the second consecutive season that Northwestern reached the BL Tournament final only to come up short despite winning at least a share of the last two regular season crowns.

"The game could have gone either way just like the block call at the end. It was anybody's ball game," Northwestern coach Doug Sebach said. "We expected tough defense and a tough game and it was just like the last one only we came up a little short this time around."

Now both teams will prepare for the Class M tournament which gets underway next week. Nonnewaug was 16-4 in the regular season and is the No. 7 seed. The Chiefs will host No. 26 Stonington (9-11) on Tuesday night while the No. 5 Highlanders (17-3) host No. 28 Valley Regional (8-12).

"There are a lot of stout teams in Class M," Drakeley said. "We'll prepare and be ready and take our best shot and have some fun."

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