The Plainville boys basketball team reached the state tournament for the first time in eight years. The last time the Blue Devils played in the post season was during the 2010-11 season.
It also marked just the seventh time in the last 20 years that Plainville played in the tournament, and the last span of multiple appearances took place from 2002 to 2006—a five-year run that culminated with a 2006 Class IV state championship.
Armed with a solid group of seven seniors, the Blue Devils entered the Class V state brackets as the No. 19 seed, taking on No. 14 Gilbert (10-10) last Tuesday in Winsted. Plainville saw their journey come to an end with a 61-55 loss, but the Blue Devils will still get to hang a banner in the Ivan Wood Gymnasium to commemorate their season as the Southern Region Patriot Division Champions of the CCC.
“We didn’t make as many plays as they did that was the bottom line,” said Plainville head coach Jim DiNello. The coach said that the game plan was to speed the game up, but Gilbert’s height was too much to handle. “We had a lot of great defensive stands especially down the stretch. If we could have cleared the glass we would have had quite a few more chances than we did. We gave them too many second chances.”
The road wasn’t an easy trek for this group of seniors as they had to endure a two year span that produced just one victory. Coming into their final year of high school basketball this team set their sights on a goal that hasn’t been reached in quite some and through determination and hard work it paid off.
“It was a great experience to see these seniors grow over the course of the last four years,” said DiNello. “It’s a tribute to them and the hard work they put into it. To have them come back year after year and trusting that it will out work out shows the kind of dedication they had.”
Gilbert broke out to a 16-10 first quarter advantage but the resilient Blue Devils battled back with an 18-12 second quarter to go into the half tied at 28-28.
Entering the final quarter Plainville was in the game trailing by a basket 41-39. The Yellowjackets began to take advantage of their height and pulled out a 20-16 fourth quarter to come away with a close six point win.
“They have every reason to hold their heads high,” DiNello said about his Devils. “They weathered the storm and experienced success. I wish they could have made a little run in the tournament and it will be sad to see them go.”
Dane Stephens led the Blue Devils with 20 points, Alec Couture added 18 points on six 3-pointers and Javan Paradis checked in with nine points to spark the offense.
During the season the Blue Devils had several players step up to lead the way. Brady Callahan (All-Conference) scored in double digits in 8 of the first 9 games leading the team in scoring five times and finished with 198 points at 9.8 per game.
Sam Lestini was in double figures five times with a season high of 20 points leading the team in scoring on four occasions ending with 135 points for a 6.7 average. Stephens threw down double digits in seven games leading the team in scoring three times with a season high of 20 points compiling 155 points for a 7.7 per game average.
Ben Dougherty (104 points), Pierre Ramirez (61 points), Peyton Warnat (42 points) and Ryan Snyder (18 points) all chipped in to the offense that hung 52.9 on the board while allowing an average of 53.1.
DiNello won’t have the cupboards bare when the team returns next season, but there will be seven holes left by graduation.
Paradis a sophomore proved that he can bring the ball up court from the point and knock down his shot. He put up double digits 13 times and led the team in scoring five times. He finished with 224 points for a 10.7 average.
“Javan is a good shooter and he can create as well as rebound,” said DiNello. “He has a world of promise and got better on the defensive end as the year progressed.”
Sophomore Couture at 6-2 will be the Blue Devils inside threat but has also shown promise beyond the three-point arc. He scored in double figures five times leading the team in scoring twice. He finished with 149 points for a 7.4 average.
“Alec came out in his first state tournament game and hit on six threes with three of them coming in the final quarter,” said DiNello. “It just goes to show you the kind of special player he can become.”
Plainville will be young. Only junior Louis Passaretti and sophomores Tanner Callahan and AJ Lestini logging varsity minutes. The road back to the state tournament may be just as steep if not steeper than this years climb but a solid foundation has been left by a resilient group of seniors who have shown the younger group how hard work does pay off.