STRATFORD—Stratford basketball coach Tim Swaller had a game plan for Kolbe Cathedral’s Quinton Sneed. Unfortunately for the Red Devils, Sneed was not to be denied.
Combining 17 points with 24 rebounds, Sneed led the sixth-seeded Cougars to a 61-54 victory over third-seeded Stratford in the South West Conference quarterfinals at Needham Memorial Gymnasium at Stratford High Friday evening.
With the victory, Kolbe (11-10) advances to Monday evening’s semifinals at second-seeded Bunnell, a 65-52 victor over Newtown, at 7 pm.
“The little things like rebounding are huge in games like this,” Sneed said. “We felt if we win the glass, we win the game. We wanted to stick to our strengths and everyone just had to know their roles.”
Kolbe, which fell to Stratford earlier in the season by 11 points, forced the issue against the Red Devils after Stratford evened the game at 34 on a 3-pointer by Preston Williams and a free throw by Zach Fedak with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
The Cougars responded with the last four points of the quarter on buckets by freshman Eudell Mason and sophomore Taeshaun Sanchez to start a 14-0 run which gave the Cougars a 48-34 lead with 4:58 to go in regulation.
Included in that run were two big 3-pointers by senior Evan Coleman which sent the momentum clearly to Kolbe Cathedral’s side.
“That was big,” Kolbe Cathedral coach John Pfohl said of the 14-0 run. “Evan hit a couple of big 3’s and the kids did a great job executing. Our kids hit big free throws at the end. That has been one of our challenges all year long. We did a great job tonight.”
Trailing 48-34, Stratford responded with an 11-0 run of its own, which included two huge 3-pointers by Jack Ryan. The senior’s second 3-pointer in the run with 1:27 to go had the Red Devils within 48-45.
“We played from behind, and that’s tough to do,” Swaller said. “We spent a lot of energy getting back to tie or even down one. We did not make enough plays.”
Stratford (15-6) was forced to foul and Kolbe was not going to be denied, connecting on 13-of-15 free throws in the final 1:17 of the game, including four by Sneed.
“We have been in situations like those earlier in the year,” Sneed said. “95% of our losses have been close games. We are a young group. Two months ago, I am not sure we hold on and win. We have adapted. This is playoff basketball. We have to take advantage and stay together. Our mantra has been together.”
Stratford’s last lead of the game was 19-15 on a bucket by Ryan before baskets by Sneed and Justin Leigh evened the game at 19. A 3-pointer by Coleman and two more free throws by the senior had Kolbe up 24-19.
The Cougars took a 34-30 lead before Stratford evened the game and Kolbe followed with the biggest run of the contest.
Sneed then did the rest, owning the boards on both sides of the court. With Stratford limited in its second chance opportunities, and Kolbe getting their chances, the Cougars pulled away.
“Q (Quinton) has been unbelievable to coach,” Pfohl said, “He has been a joy for me. No one works harder and does the dirty work like him. He takes the charges, he rebounds, and he has four guys hanging on to him. He steps up. I am happy for him.”
Coleman finished with 14 points and Mason had 12 as three Kolbe players were in double digits. Joe August finished with 15 points for Stratford.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Quinton Sneed — Kolbe senior finished with 17 points and 24 rebounds.
“We had momentum on our side tonight. The first time we played them, we were chasing all the time. The kids played with a lot of composure.”
— Kolbe Cathedral coach John Pfohl
KOLBE CATHEDRAL 61, STRATFORD 54
KOLBE CATHEDRAL 13 14 11 23 — 61
STRATFORD 11 12 11 20 — 54
KOLBE CATHEDRAL (61)
Tyrell Staples-Santos 0 1 0-0 3; Evan Coleman 0 4 2-3 14; Brandon Gadsden 2 0 0-0 4; Quinton Sneed 5 — 7-9 17; Taeshaun Sanchez 2 0 5-6 9; Justin Leigh 1 0 0-0 2; Eudell Mason 3 0 6-7 12; 13 5 20-25 61
Zach Fedak 0 0 2-4 2; Jack Ryan 5 4 6-8 28; Mike August 4 1 4-4 15; Preston Williams 0 1 0-0 3; Kyle Robinson 0 1 0-0 3; Jayquan Kirkland 2 0 0-0 4; 11 7 12-16 54
By Mike Madera | Gametime CT