Cromwell’s Josh Green shoots a free throw against Coginchaug last Thursday.
Panthers Victorious in Conference Clash
CROMWELL - On Thanksgiving, the Coginchaug Regional Blue Devils easily defeated Cromwell to spoil the Panthers’ final home football game of the 2013 season. On Thursday, the Cromwell boys’ basketball team was able to exact a measure of revenge by outlasting the Blue Devils, 49-37, in a physical and intense game. The victory was Cromwell’s sixth straight win against the Durham-based school and put a damper on a night of festivities for Coginchaug, who were celebrating Blue Devil Alumni Night.

       Cromwell, who had scored 78 and 75 points in their previous two games, struggled to score early. They were held without a shot through the first four and a half minutes and didn’t score their first bucket until the 4:26 mark of the first quarter. Coginchaug’s harassing defense and their clock-milking, Princeton-style offense didn’t allow the Panthers to get into an offensive rhythm. Despite their defensive prowess, the Blue Devils also had trouble scoring and Cromwell held an 11-5 lead after the first quarter. The Panthers closed the quarter on an 8-0 run, thanks to a layup from Jake Regula and back to back three-pointers from Regula and fellow senior Matt Turkington.

       Versatile forward Josh Green sparked the Panthers off the bench in the second quarter, which allowed Cromwell to expand their lead to 19-13 heading into halftime. Green ignited three fast breaks with steals and wowed the crowd with a highlight-reel layup. He closed the half by knocking down a pair of free throws to thwart a 5-0 Blue Devil run and quite the hometown crowd. The senior’s sensational second quarter was part of his 11-point, six-rebound performance.

       The Panthers came out of the halftime locker room and resembled the offense that had been averaging 60 points per game during their 5-1 start. Regula, who was the game‘s leading scorer with 14 points, heated up in the second half and scored seven of Cromwell’s 18 third-quarter points. Regula’s backcourt teammate Deandre Hamlin finished off the quarter by nailing a three-pointer with eight seconds left, giving Cromwell a comfortable 37-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

       Coginchaug’s sophomore point guard Cameron Powers kept the Blue Devils competitive with his nifty ball handling and precision bounce passes, but Cromwell’s attacking style proved to be too much. Even the Blue Devils’ strategy of sending the Panthers to the free throw line backfired. The Panthers made eight of 10 free throw attempts in the final quarter.

       The win improved Cromwell to 6-1 and they remain perfect in Shoreline Conference play. Head coach John Pinone has the Panthers playing smart, aggressive basketball and the last time Cromwell started 5-0 in conference play, they made tournament runs. One of those seasons was 2008-09, which concluded with a State Championship.

       The Panthers next travel to East Hampton to take on the Bellringers and return home on Thursday, Jan. 16, to battle rival Hyde Leadership. Cromwell has won the last two meetings against the Howling Wolves, but the games have been decided by a combined eight points. The game against Hyde Leadership will tip-off at 7 p.m.

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