Rocky Hill’s Tyler Carlstrom, who is defended by Wethersfield’s Thomas Daly, has been a senior leader for the Terriers in the program’s first season under new head coach Ken Borton.
Despite losing at home to rival Wethersfield, Rocky Hill boys’ basketball showed the grit and determination that first-year head coach Ken Borton has wanting to see all season.
The Terriers turned a 20-point second half deficit into a two-point defeat.
For Borton and a young team that is learning on the fly, it’s a step in the right direction.
“We need to play to win. We’ve been playing tentatively this season and the mentality has to be to play to win, and tonight we showed that in the second half,” stated Borton.
After the Terriers managed only three points in the second quarter and allowed the first six points of the third quarter, the home team began to turn the tide.
Borton said the scoring drought dug the Terriers a deep hole, adding, “When you have a ten minute stretch where you only scored three points, you can’t expect to win a game at any level.”
Sophomore Jaden Veal sparked the team off the bench offensively, scoring a game-high 19 points.
Veal almost single handedly stole the game late, scoring eight of the game’s final 13 points, including a pair of three-pointers.
Veal and freshman Rathan Tejeda — who hit eight three-pointers and scored 30 points in the junior varsity game before also playing a reserve role in the varsity game — provided a glimpse into what the future could hold for the program.
“Those two are a big part of the future,” stated Borton. “It is good for them to be in games like this. They can feel that energy and they are not running away from it.”
Junior Casey Robinson also provided a lift to the team in the fourth, scoring all six of his points over the final eight minutes after playing a majority of the game in foul trouble.
Borton entered his first season in Rocky Hill knowing it was going to be a rebuilding season for a program that was coming off a one-win season and had only won eight games total the previous three seasons.
The team has already surpassed the win total from a season ago, winning games over Wright Tech and Plainville.
Bridging the gap between the players and the coaching staff is a pair of mature seniors in Tyler Carlstrom and Yazdan Aftab.
Both are multi-sport standouts with Carlstrom starring as all-conference baseball player in the spring and Aftab as an all-conference football player in the fall.
“I cannot sing their praises enough.” Borton said of his senior captains. “They have not quit one bit. I know it’s been hard on them, but they have been here every single day busting their butts. It doesn’t always show up on the score box, but they keep these guys together.”
Both senior leaders made plays in the loss to Wethersfield. Carlstrom scored six points and ignited an 8-0 scoring run in the third quarter by knocking down a three-pointer. Aftab also netted six points and had a pair of steals late in regulation that allowed the Terriers to claw back into the game.
Borton, who was previously an assistant coach in Cromwell for five years and served as an assistant in New Britain the prior seven years, believes the team has slowly built the confidence needed on the court and the loss to Wethersfield was yet another stepping stone.
“You can’t be afraid and you have to be able to put yourself out there to make a play, and they started to do that tonight,” stated Borton. “The silver lining is that we were trying to take the game and they weren't waiting for it.”
The Terriers close out the season tonight (Thursday, Feb. 23), welcoming Bulkeley to Rocky Hill High School at 6:45 p.m.
Borton said — win or lose — he expects his team to play with passion.
“We’ve got to go all out,” added Borton. “Until the last buzzer goes off, we’ll be out there fighting.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin