By Matthew Aveni
The fourth annual Connecticut 6 classic was played Saturday at the University of Hartford. The day was filled with buzzer beaters and overtime games; the last game of the day combined both when Central tipped off versus Fairfield University.
The Blue Devils have a difficult task this year replacing the schools number one and ten scorers in school history, Kenny Horton and Robbie Patcek respectively. Two integral parts of a team cannot be replaced in one season but Central Connecticut Head Coach, Howie Dickenman, did a great job bringing in new players and developing the current players on his roster.
Adonis Burbage has stepped up his play this season putting on 15 pounds and developing a knockdown jump shot. Matt Hunter transferred into Central this year and can score at will. He can create his own shot and be a catch and shoot type of player. Kyle Vinales has an increased role this year being the primary scorer and target of most defenses.
Fairfield did exactly that. They attempted to slow down Vinales and make Hunter, Burbage and McMillan beat them. Vinales got off to a quick start scoring five of Central’s first seven points. The Stags responded by going on a 9-0 scoring run to make it 13-7. Halfway through the first half, Central was scoring in bunches with ball movement and staggering threes from Burbage.
“We told Adonis to shoot if he has an open shot. If he gets the ball when he is open and does not shoot we told him that we would take him out of the game. Adonis is one of the best corner three point shooters in the conference and he will be a big part of our offense this year,” said Dickenman.
The half was finished slowly by each team but the Stags held a three point halftime lead. The beginning of the second half was low scoring and displayed sloppy play by both teams. Vinales hit a midrange jump shot with nine minutes to go to cut the Fairfield lead to just three points.
The three-point-shots kept coming in, Hunter hit a three with six minutes left to give the Blue Devils a two-point-lead. Central maintained its lead until the final minute of play where the Stags scored eight points to tie the game with time running down.
At the end of regulation Kyle Vinales had the ball in his hands but forced up a quick shot leaving time on the clock for Fairfield to score.
“I wish I could take that play back. I shouldn’t have gone to the hoop with that much time on the clock. It was a bad play on my part and it’s not what Coach wanted me to do,” said Vinales.
Overtime seemed like much of the first half. Central scored five quick points to grab an early lead but the Stags came back hitting three’s of their own. With only 40 seconds left on the clock the Blue Devils took the ball with the game tied at 63. Vinales had the ball and Joe Efese set a solid screen to try and set up a shot for Vinales, but he slipped and forced up a shot that was blocked by the Stags. With the poor shot being forced up Fairfield pushed the ball up the court and was fouled with 2.3 seconds left in the game. With the first free throw being made there was not much left the Blue Devils could do as they fell 64-63.
“I slipped and had to force up a shot that I never wanted to happen. Coach drew up a play and I couldn’t get the job done,” said Vinales.
Coach Dickenman is very optimistic of the direction that his team is headed and is confident that his players can get the job done going into NEC play for the rest of the regular season.