By: Brent Pelella & Nick Daniels
Hopkins School 62, GFA 63
Dom Cristiano, Sunday Okeke, Elvin Rodriguez, Edens Fleurizard. You don’t know these names yet? Get to know, Connecticut. Get. To. Know.
As CTHoopsNews sat on hand for its first NEPSAC game of the year, Hopkins School and Green Farms Academy tangoed. In the first stanza, it was Hopkins who came out with the “peskiness” as Coach Doug Scott (GFA) described.
“You know that Edens Fleurizard? He’s the real deal man.” Edens was on Thursday night, that’s for sure. Besides pouring in a game-high 21, he headed a vicious monster that was Hopkins half-court press.
Edens had early help in the form of sharp-shooting Charlie Zane. He connected on three triples within a two minute span and added one soon after, while Hopkins jumped out to a comfortable lead.
A crucial moment occurred towards the end of the first half when Sunday Okeke picked up back to back fouls that sent him to the bench, and allowed Fleunzard to dominate the glass.
Dom Cristiano, Green Farms Academy’s leader, said, “We were ready for the challenge, but they did a great job. In the second half, we were able to get some stops, and that helped us get in transition.”
In order to make those stops, GFA turned to Isac Manton and a change in mentality. With a daunting full-court press and Manton blanketing Zane, they found a once 15-point deficit shrink to eight.
It was then that an aura of “invincibility” came over 2017 guard, Elvin Rodriguez. A series of breakouts, only interrupted by a couple long balls, gave Elvin 16 of his 20 game-points. He told me, “All I wanted to do was play as hungry as I could to satisfy my family, coach, fans, and the team.”
GFA came within two at the five-minute mark and that’s where it would stay until an injury forced future Hobart Statesmen, Edens Fleurizard to the bench with under 30 seconds to play. GFA inbounded and gave it to Rodriguez, or “Mr. Unstoppable” (as I think I heard parents and children muttering alike). He darted into the lane and as he has so many times before, he found the cup.
On the ensuing possession, it was Rodriguez again! With the game tied at 56, he came up with a steal and put up a high arching heave from half court that had the crowd gasping as the ball just fell off the left side of the rim at the buzzer.
Overtime was sloppy to say the least, but Charlie Zane dropped a deep one that put Hopkins up 1. The slim lead would stick until Rocco DeMaio said one thing too many to the lead official, resulting in two free throws for Cristiano. GFA wouldn't relinquish it and with 5.9 seconds left Hopkins was faced with its final possession.
The Hopkins inbound went to Zane, who was covered by Okeke on a switch. A pump fake by Zane got him past Sunday and into the lane, but his runner hit a little too high off the glass, and GFA held on for a 63-62 victory.
Recruiting Tid Bits:
Dom Cristiano- Aside from being a terrific player, Dom is also a high-honors student in the classroom. He is being recruited by a TON of high academic schools and will likely make his decision after the season.
Edens Fleurizard- Hobart is lucky.
Elvin Rodriguez- A very talented guard with division 1 talent. Class of 2017. Continuing to become more physical and crafty at the rim.
Sunday Okeke- Unfortunately Okeke was in foul trouble and wasn’t able to play as much as people would have liked in his season opener, but look for big things to come from him as he continues to get healthier. Top five talent in the state.
Isaac Menton- Menton is a defensive stopper and a playmaker in transition who is committed to Harwick College; choosing from six offers.