Boys basketball: Tournament spot is now within reach

A spot in the state Class M tournament is looking more like a reality for the Joel Barlow High boys varsity basketball team.

The Falcons are now one victory away from the eight they need to secure a spot in the tournament, which begins next month. With three games left during the regular season they have several chances to qualify and improve their seeding.

Last week the Falcons took two more steps in the right direction with a pair of wins. Visiting South-West Conference rival on Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Falcons were sparked in part by a strong effort in the second half for a 58-52 win.

The win was Barlow’s first over Weston in several seasons.

“We played really well, especially in the second half,” said Barlow head coach Matt Whelan. “It was some of the best defense we played all year.”

Offensively, the Trojans had a slight advantage in the first half, taking a 26-20 lead into the break. By the time play resumed the Falcons began to chip away at the lead.

Later in the half Weston had found itself in foul trouble and could not be as aggressive as it would have liked on defense. The Falcons took advantage of the situation with some big rebounds as well as couple of big shots by Jack Pantalena and a three-pointer by Kieran Geyer as the visitors went ahead to stay.

Three players scored in double digits for Barlow. Pantalena led with 13 points and Phil Moriber scored 12. Liam Rooney sank 11.

Barlow, which had an opening in its schedule for a non-league game, visited Meriden two days later to face Wilcox Tech. Strong defense, particularly in the first half, again became a factor as the Falcons won a  64-48 decision.

Wilcox High scorer Roosevelt Shider, who had been averaging 27 points per game going into the night, was kept off the board for the entire first half. On the other end of the court Barlow’s offense was on target for a 38-14 halftime lead.

“We did a great job on him,” said Whelan. “We had a phenomenal first half.”

But the Falcons had a little trouble keeping possession at the start of the second half, turning over the ball three times in the first one and a half minutes. They could hold off Shider for only so long as well. He scored 21 points and helped his team in a big third quarter that cut Barlow’s lead to 12 (48-36) and made it more of a game.

Barlow stopped the threat from growing with a strong showing in the fourth quarter (16 points) as well as keeping Wilcox under control for that stretch.

Pantalena again led Barlow, this time with 16 points. Rooney scores 13, including two three-pointers. Finn Cohane scored 10 with two three-pointers as well.

Rooney and Geyer each sank eight with Moriber adding six. Will Bracken netted five while Adam Koubeck and Grayson Kramer scored four and two respectively.

Barlow, now 7-9 overall, visits Brookfield on Friday, hosts  Kolbe-Cathedral on Monday and is home to Notre Dame of Fairfield on Tuesday. All games start at 7 p.m.

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