Prayer answered, Z&A Insurance takes down NBA title

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The Insurance Men won the Naugatuck Basketball Association title in an overtime thriller. PHOTO BY KEN MORSE
NAUGATUCK–Every once in a while a sporting event will have you gasping for breath and you are not even playing the game. Sometimes a game can take on a life of its own and the white-knuckle affair will have you talking about that game for years to come.

The Naugatuck Basketball Association certainly saved its best for last as Z&A Insurance and B&G Sports put on a show during the championship series that will go down in Naugatuck sports history as a pure classic.

The Insurance Men came into the best of three series for the NBA championship as the number one seed going 11-1 during the regular season for head coach Bobby Kennedy and assistant coach Carlos Rivera.

The Sportsman the number three seed logged a 9-3 campaign under head coach Ryan Nelson and assistant coach Spencer Palmer.
As if to offer a preview of coming attractions Taray Britt nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to send Z&A home as winners in a breath taking 65-64 overtime victory in game one of the series.

The official scorer at the table, Eron Ramadanov, would be kept just as busy in game two as a pair of improbable comebacks led to a stunning conclusion in the series’ second and final game.

“Both teams battled throughout the playoffs to get here,” league director Kevin McSherry said. “The first game was an excellent game played by both teams and an exciting finishing with a three at the buzzer. Little did I know at the time that game two would be the most spectacular finish I have ever seen.”

Z&A came out quickly to take control led by Marquan Williams who scored the first eight points of the game for the Insurance Men. Mike Leona went on a tear to keep pace for B&G as the Sportsman were able to wrestle away a 13-12 lead at the end of the first period.

Third year coach Bobby Kennedy the grandson of former Naugatuck Greyhounds basketball coach Robert Sullivan must have taken a few plays out of his grandfathers play book as Z&A dominated the second period.

“My grandfather is a real inspiration to me,” Kennedy said. “Of course my first year coaching my team went 0-12. But I learned a lot from my grandfather and to come back and win the tile this year was just unbelievable.”

Avary Tripp threw down a pair of put backs to put Z&A out in front by five. Issac Rodriguez closed the gap for B&G at 24-21 with two minutes left in the half.

Sean Kennedy and CJ Wall got loose to start a run and the Insurance Men took a comfortable lead 30-21 at the break.
Z&A was intent on ending the series in two games and pretty much had it wrapped up taking a commanding 47-32 lead into the final period. That’s when the jaws started dropping as the Sportsman staged a 24-9 rally with six minutes to play to send the game into overtime.

But the most impressive comeback of all time was about to unfold. Rich Pimental dropped in a pair of free throws and converted a basket down on the baseline to hand B&G what looked like at the time a comfortable 60-56 advantage with 56 seconds left to play.

Angel Velez streaked down the court and pulled up hitting a huge three pointer for Z&A to make it a 60-59 game. Leona and Brian Coney hit free throws and with 12 seconds left Pimental added a pair at the line to open up what appeared to be an insurmountable B&G lead at 64-59.

What took place next had the crowd at the City Hill gym rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Andrew Davey came out of a huddle after a Z&A timeout and buried a three with 4 seconds left.

It was a 64-62 B&G lead and a quick foul led to Leona stepping to the line for a pair. Both shots rattled out and Davey secured the rebound. Davey raced down the right side of the court and threw up a prayer.

As the ball came off the window the buzzer sounded and the ball rippled threw the net leaving the crowd and both teams stunned at the turn of events. Z&A stormed the court to celebrate the most dramatic finish in the history of the Naugatuck Basketball Association as B&G could only look to next year for another chance at the title.

“It couldn’t have happened to a better kid,” Kennedy said of Davey. “He broke his wrist the second game of the season and missed seven games. While he was injured he came to all the games and practices and really kept this team together.”