Kaynor Tech girls battle, but ultimately fall in CTC tournament final

Kaynor Tech’s Julyssa Patterson (15) puts up a shot during Friday evening’s CTC tournament final against Bullard-Havens at Middletown’s Mercy High School. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)

The Kaynor Tech girls basketball team took its shot at a Connecticut Technical Conference tournament championship on Friday evening in Middletown.

The third-seeded Panthers put up a battle, but lost to fifth-seeded Bullard-Havens, 46-39, at Mercy High School. Both Kaynor and Bullard are 18-5 on the season. The Panthers may have lost Friday, but they have long since passed the 12 combined wins they had in the first two seasons under head coach Robert Wallace.

Kaynor has just one senior, starter Maryel Mendoza, on its roster. The future is certainly bright for the Panthers. Sophomore Shaniya Dunbar scored a game-high 16 points while junior Julyssa Patterson added 11. Mendoza scored six points in her final CTC game.

It took both offenses time to get going in the final, and Bullard held an 8-7 lead after one quarter. Too many second chances helped the Tigers build a 22-14 lead by halftime.

Kaynor was down, 27-18, in the third quarter when sophomore reserve JaDa Brantly keyed a rally with her hustle. Brantly grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds, with one leading to a basket by Mendoza and the other leading to two points by Dunbar. When Dunbar scored, the deficit was trimmed to 27-22, and Bullard called timeout.

The Tigers built their lead to 10 points, 32-22, before Dunbar came up with a steal and layup. A long jumper by junior reserve Jamilet Rivera cut the Panther deficit to 32-26 by the end of the third quarter.

Kaynor pulled within five points, 34-29, on a Patterson layup, but the Panthers had difficulty converting from the foul line, which would have given them free points without time running off the clock. Kaynor shot just 7-for-18 at the line. A fast break layup, a pair of second-chance baskets, and another bucket pushed the Bullard advantage to 42-29 with under four minutes to go in the fourth quarter

The Panthers outscored the Tigers, 10-2, to get within 44-39 with 53.6 seconds remaining in the game. Defense was a big key with Dunbar using quick hands to come up with steals. Bullard also helped keep the game going with its own poor foul shooting (6-for-21). 

When the score was 44-37, Kaynor forced a 10-second violation. A basket by Brantly cut the deficit to five points, 44-39. The Panthers couldn’t get any closer, however, and had to settle for a runner-up finish.

Kaynor is the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Class MM state tournament. The Panthers host No. 30 RHAM-Hebron of the Central Connecticut Conference next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

GALLERY: Here are my photos from Friday’s game.