By Robbie Goodrich
The emergence of Raheem Solomon into a star player has been steady. He is one of the top three of four players in Connecticut. He is excelling in his new role as the leading Heart. On Saturday night, the Solomon led Hearts beat Crosby 72-65 to improve to 16-0. Solomon scored 28 points, played rugged defense, and was steady under duress as the Crosby Bulldogs (12-5) made an attempt at breaking the Hearts 70 game in-state winning streak. The streak now stands at 71. Sacred Heart coach Jon Carroll, who earned his 200th career victory tonight said this about his star, “he’s a rebounder, a defender, and he’s a complete player.” Carroll added, “Offensively I think he (Solomon) is just scratching the surface he is only a junior he’s going to get better.”
The first quarter was frantic. The Hearts led 26-20 after one. The Bulldogs of Crosby were able to keep it close because of the fantastic play of senior PG Miguel Rivera. The diminutive PG was unstoppable. The Hearts’ defense didn’t have an answer or a defender to stop him. He finished with 12 points in the first quarter all coming from three’s. The second quarter was much different. The Hearts defense limited Crosby to only 10 points and just two field goals, both from Rivera. Rivera finished the first half with 20 points and a game-high 29 points.
Leading 40-30 to start the third quarter the Hearts were force fed some of their own medicine. The Bulldogs pressured the Hearts relentlessly. Solomon was held scoreless in the third and the Hearts only managed 7 points and only two field goals. Crosby pulled within one and trailed 47-46. The Hearts, having a handful of role players, are better suited for these tight games than the Bulldogs. Crosby can rely on seniors Jeremiah Kendall (25 points, 11 rebounds) and Rivera for solid performances each and every night, but struggle to find a consistent third option. Rivera and Kendall combined for 54 of their teams 65 points. Kendall reflected on his team’s effort and said, “We need to get aggressive once we get aggressive we a good team.” He continued, “they (Sacred Heart) are like the number two team in the state if we can beat them we can beat any team.” Kendall concluded, “We’ll see them again,” possibly alluding to an NVL tournament matchup or a Class L playoff matchup between the Brass City squads.
The Hearts have Solomon, who scored 11 big points in the pivotal fourth. He hit a three to start the fourth giving the Hearts a 50-46 lead. The Hearts also have a host of solid role players. They can rely on 6’2 senior Courie Stevenson (11 points) for solid defense and timely buckets; junior Isaiah Gaiter (8 points), a transfer from Platt, who brushed off a poor start to score six points early in the fourth; and get a consistent inside presence from Omar Rowe (9 points). The game was tight 59-57, and another one of Sacred Heart’s key role players provided a six-point burst. Legend Johnson provided those six points and finished the game with eight points. Johnson pressured the Bulldogs’ ball-handlers and forced two consecutive turnovers and made buckets in transition. Hearts led 65-59 with 1:29 remaining. The Bulldogs just didn’t have enough. The Hearts had just enough.
Noteworthy: Crosby’s Jeremiah Kendall scored his 1000th career point in the first half.