WATERBURY — Ryan Gomes, Kelvin Davis and Dale Saunders — really, just about every member of the County Line Nissan basketball team — remain close to former coach Wayne Simone.
Which is, in part, why they cherish every opportunity to beat him.
"Always love, and a lot of love, but also a lot of competitiveness that oversteps that during the game sometimes," Gomes said. "Always a rivalry, too."
County Line Nissan, the defending Greater Hartford Pro-Am champion, remained the summer league's only undefeated team with a 123-107 overtime victory Wednesday over Simone and his new team, St. Mary's Hospital, in the opener of a doubleheader at Crosby High.
"Ever since I left those guys, I've been trying to beat them," said Simone, who formed his current team two years ago because he wanted some of the younger players in his Connecticut Select AAU program to get more pro-am experience. Up-and-comers had no chance of cracking the Nissan lineup, which has been together about 10 years.
Simone coached Nissan to three pro-am championships. Nissan won another last summer without a coach and with the same pro-am regulars — Gomes, Davis, Saunders, Lamont Ulmer and Keith Cothran, a mix of Waterbury and New Haven players Simone has coached since they were toddlers.
"There was nothing unsportsmanlike out there, but a lot was said by players on both teams," Simone said. "Maybe it's the familiarity, the history."
Maybe it was the competitiveness, too. St. Mary's (4-4) led for much of the game, but Nissan (8-0) raced ahead in the fourth quarter, the highlight being a Davis dunk over Gerald Carter for a 99-94 lead with 1:37 remaining.
"I wanted to run some time off the clock, but I saw a lane and knew I could take off," said Davis, who played at San Diego State. "You've got to go to the basket strong, elevate, get up there and be physical."
With 11 seconds remaining, Carter hit only 1 of 2 free throws, but a lane violation by Gomes gave him another chance and he made it for a 101-101 tie. Simone said he should have had his players work for a winning three-pointer because the team was gassed.
That showed in overtime, when County Line scored the first 14 points.
"We just stick with it," said B.J. Monteiro of Nissan. "We have a lot of good players on this team. We have a bunch of guys who can take over at the end."
Gomes, an eight-year NBA veteran who is a free agent, had 38 points. Monteiro, a Crosby High grad who played at Duquesne and is now an overseas professional, had 16 points and Cothran (New Haven, University of Rhode Island, overseas pro) scored 15.
Marcus James, a role player with three Nissan championship teams but the pro-am regular season MVP under Simone last season, had 25 points for St. Mary's.
On Friday, County Line Nissan will face a team from Boston named The City in a "Champs vs. Champs" game. The City, led by Jared Sullinger of the Celtics, has won the Osgood Shootout in New Britain the past two summers.
The pro-am regular season concludes with games Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Crosby. The playoffs begin Wednesday.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Hot 93.7 kept sole possession of second place with a 109-86 victory over the Chris Baker All-Xity Stars. Doug Herring, the pro-am's leading scorer, had 34 points for Hot 93.7 (7-1). Mustapha Heron scored 19 for the All-Xity Stars.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun