Bloomfield wins rematch of Division IV boys basketball final against Granby

A lot has changed since Bloomfield played Granby for the Division IV high school boys basketball state championship last March.

Bloomfield lost its coach, Kevin Moses, in September when he passed away due to colon cancer. The Warhawks have had to adjust to a new coach, Brooks Sales.

Granby graduated 11 seniors from the team that lost to the Warhawks in the state final.

The rematch on Wednesday was predictably lopsided – Bloomfield, which returned a large number of players from last year’s championship team, won the nonconference game, 69-32. Cayden Smith led the Warhawks (2-2) with 14 points and Jaysean Williams had 12.

“This is the JV team from last year. Our assistant coach likes to call it the future varsity team,” Granby coach Wally Hansen said. “Now they’re the varsity team. We have a lot of learning and growing up to do, from a basketball standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, there’s all kinds of things we have to learn.”

While Granby (0-4) was adjusting to an entirely new starting lineup, Bloomfield’s football players, who make up a good portion of the team, were trying to get their basketball legs back after the Warhawks advanced to the Class S football championship on Dec. 10, losing to Ansonia 28-21.

The football players had a day off, then reported to basketball practice Monday. Bloomfield’s first game was three days later.

“We got off to a slow start because our football team was in the state championship,” Sales said. “This Christmas break gave us a chance to start getting in and really getting through our training camp the proper way.

“We’re just looking for guys to step into the proper roles. We’re still trying to find our identity. For the most part, they’re giving us the energy and the effort we need.”

Bloomfield, which won its first basketball state title since 2008, 58-54 over the Bears, started off with a difficult schedule right away. The Warhawks had to play Windsor Dec. 17 and lost 81-74 and Northwest Catholic Dec. 19, losing 88-66.

“There’s been a lot of early adversity,” said Bloomfield senior Howard Simpson, one of the five football players on the team, who had 18 rebounds and 10 points Wednesday. “We’ve seen two of the best teams in the state but we have to stay battle tested and we got it back today.

“I’d rather play [the harder teams] now, get it out of the way and see where we’re at as a team. We got to see how we are when we lose and see how we bounce back from that.”

Bloomfield did the same thing last year, advancing to the football state finals against Cromwell, then going straight to basketball, so the Warhawks have already been through that particular scenario.

Sales, a former professional player who played in the NBA briefly and played overseas for 10 years before retiring in 2012, said he’s enjoying coaching at Bloomfield, where his sister Nykesha played in the early 90s.

“We’re pretty much where we expected them to be,” he said. “Jaysean and Cayden are very good guards, Howard inside has been a presence. Our defense and rebounding is good. We just have to find our offensive rhythm and then we’ll be fine.”

Lori Riley can be reached at lriley@courant.com.