The Bassick High boys basketball team has been using at a mantra all season long.
“We feel like we’re the FCIAC champs,” coach Bernie Lofton said. “And it’s our title until someone comes and takes it from us.”
Westhill certainly couldn’t do it.
Senior forward Demetrius Thomas scored 27 points, pulled down nine rebounds and collected four blocks to lead fourth-seeded Bassick to a 72-59 victory over No. 5 Westhill in the FCIAC quarterfinals Saturday evening at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.
Senior point guard Devin Coleman added 19 points, including three 3-pointers, and guided the Bassick offense nicely with a game-high eight assists.
Bassick (16-5), the defending FCIAC champions, will next face No. 8 Bridgeport Central (12-8) in an all-Bridgeport semifinal Tuesday night at Fairfield Warde High School. Central knocked off top-seeded and undefeated St. Joseph 62-58 in the opening round Saturday night.
“This is a big win because Westhill was the one team we didn’t match up well against,” Lofton said. “We knew in order for us to repeat the road was going to be tough. But we’re moving on, so that’s all that matters.”
Westhill came back from two 10-point deficits over the first three quarters behind the play of senior guard Chris Walters (33 points), pulling to within 46-43 early in the fourth after Evan Skoparantzas nailed one of his team’s four 3-pointers. But Bassick responded with a 9-0 run punctuated by an alley-oop from Coleman to Thomas, to take a commanding 55-43 lead.
The Lions sealed the game at the foul line, going 9-for-10 over the final 1:52.
“This feels real good because we do feel like the title still belongs to us,” Thomas said. “Now we just have to take it one game at a time and keep working hard.”
Walters did everything in his power to keep Westhill’s season alive, scoring 25 of his game-high 33 points in the second half while pulling down a team-high 12 rebounds and going 14-for-16 at the foul line. Senior point guard Tony Dobbinson, who spent the day showing ankle-breaking moves with the ball in his hands, added 14 points, including two 3-pointers.
But Westhill (14-7), which reached the semifinals last season, received just three field goals and nine points from the rest of the team, getting dominated in the paint behind the play of Thomas.
“ We didn’t plan on stopping Walters and Dobbinson, because you can’t,” Lofton said. “They’re pretty much unstoppable. We just concentrated on stopping everyone else.”
Bassick did a great job of stopping Westhill in the first half, forcing 12 turnovers over the first two quarters and 22 overall.
The Lions converted offensively with Coleman setting up Thomas for a number of easy baskets.
“That’s the way we like to do things,” Lofton said. “We like to get people tired and take it to them.”
Thomas sparked the Lions early, scoring eight points in the first quarter to give Bassick a 16-10 lead then added seven more over the first 4:00 of the second, including a 3-pointer to make it 26-16.
“We knew we couldn’t let them get the early lead and try to play catch up,” Thomas said. “I was hoping to be a spark for my team because I know every time I get a block or a dunk it pumps everyone up.”
Westhill finished the first half on a 9-2 run to pull to within 28-25 then finished the third quarter with an 8-0 spurt, including six points by Walters, to make it 41-39. Bassick led by 11 points midway through the third.
But senior Jerond Rogers nailed the third of his three 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter and Thomas scored five straight points at the front end of an 11-2 run to put the Lions up 55-43 and Westhill never got closer than six points after that.