WOLFHURST - "Pick your Poison."
That is how veteran Toronto head basketball coach John Leary summed up the game against Bridgeport Friday night as a hot handed Bailey McGrath drained six treys to counter the zone and spur the Bulldogs to a 78-73 win.
The Red Knights were losing the battle in the paint to the Bulldogs as 6-6 Parker Dyson teamed up with Q.J. Williams working it inside against a double team.
"If any of our fans came in at the start of the second half and saw us playing zone defense, they would have thought I had retired from coaching," said Leary. "We could not stop stop them inside in the first half so we went to the zone. I thought our players did a great job defending, but the one flaw to the zone is if someone gets hot they can bury you."
McGrath was the assassin.
"I was not happy with the way we finished the first half," said Bridgeport head coach Donnie Cash after taking a narrow 33-32 lead into the locker room. "We thought they might come out in the zone and we were looking for a spark."
Cue McGrath, who rained five three-point aerials in the third frame to play a major role in putting the Red Knights in a 14-point hole.
"Defensively, we have to learn how to keep up our intensity with a lead and put games away," Cash added. "We let down defensively in the fourth quarter and let them get back into it."
This time it would be Toronto's Hank Clegg dialing in long distance, netting four treys in the final frame for the Red Knights. As the clock ticked down, the Bulldogs saw their lead dwindle to a single possession game as Toronto had closed the gap to 76-73 with three seconds to go.
"I was proud of our players tonight for not giving up," Leary said. "We came up a little short, but we kept playing and battled back."
With time running out, the Red Knights were looking to get in a quick foul but the Bulldogs spoiled the plan as they in-bounded and threw a full court pass to Dyson waiting at the other end of the court where he put an exclamation point on the win with a finishing dunk.
"Offensively, we played well. Bailey had 27, Q.J. had 21 and Parker almost had 20 points," said Cash of his team's performance. "We were balanced in scoring."
Dyson ended up with 17 points and McGrath had all 6 of Bridgeport's three-point buckets.
Blaze Glenn paced the Red Knights with 26 points while Clegg netted 7 of Toronto's three-point baskets to finish with 23 points.
The Bulldogs (7-4) are back in action on the court inside the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium Tuesday as they host Cameron.
TORONTO (73) Stewart 2, 0-0 6; Glenn 11, 2-4 26; Roche 0, 0-0 0; Clegg 8, 0-0 23; Rowson 1, 0-0 3; Roush 2, 0-0 4; Kieresy 0, 1-2 1; Hill 2, 1-2 7. Totals 27, 6-11. 73. BRIDGEPORT (78) Seevers 1, 1-4 3; Cash 2, 2-3 6; McGrath 7, 7-9 27; Williams 9, 3-3 21; Dyson 8, 1-2 17; Sieber 2, 0-0 4. Totals 29, 14-21.
3-point goals: Toronto Clegg (7), Stewart (3), Kiersey (2), Rowson. Bridgeport McGrath (6).