CIAC Class L Boys: Hearts Get Quads At Mohegan-Beat Lancers 75-53 by CTHoopsNews

By Robbie Goodrich

A new starting five, a new star player, a new division to play in, and a fourth consecutive CIAC state championship for Sacred Heart. What else is there to say?  The Hearts (25-0) beat Notre Dame of Fairfield (22-3) 75-53.  It’s amazing to think how the talent, skill, effort, and championships keep trickling in and out of a small Catholic high school in a city with seven high schools.  Winning attracts winners and talent.  This is Sacred Hearts 9th title in 11 title games.  Hearts coach Jon Carroll reflected on his team’s journey, he said, “I couldn’t be prouder of the group.  At one point in the season, they kind of realized that they had the same target on their backs that the guys who previously graduated had except those guys are in college now.” He added, “A lot of people had kind of counted us, discounted us, you know, I could have been counted among them but again with every roadblock and every obstacle that got put up against my guys they proved me wrong too.  I couldn’t be prouder of this group.”

A big part of this group was Isaiah Gaiter.  He is a basketball nomad.  He has spent time at three schools in his first three years of his high school career.  Last night he was spectacular.  His first half was as dominant as any performance by any player during the finals weekend.  Gaiter scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds leading his team to a 36-26 lead.  He was unstoppable.  Opposing players couldn’t stop his attacks at the rim and when they slumped off him he hit jumpers.  He finished with game-highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds.  Gaiter, soft-spoken, and humble commented on this year with the Hearts.  He said, “It was a special year, you know, first time coming here I didn’t expect it to be as it was.  I was nervous, but then once I got the hang of it, it’s a real special family here.  Sacred Heart welcomed me really well.” 

Notre Dame of Fairfield has felt the wrath of Sacred Heart before.  It was just last year when the Hearts led by Mustapha Heron and Tyrn Flowers demolished the Lancers 101-49.   Due to the graduation of Heron and Flowers as well as the injury to Raheem Solomon the Tyler Bourne led Lancers seemed ready to offer a challenge to the Hearts.  They weren’t.  Bourne scored 24 points for the game but scored 16 in a giant first half performance that kept the Lancers on life support.  The Hearts' other newcomer, Omar Rowe came out hot in the third quarter and torched the Lancers for 9 of his 18 points. The Hearts led 51-39.  More than the scoring it was the Hearts defense that pushed the Lancers to the brink of submission.  Seniors Courie Stevenson and Legend Johnson harassed and leaned on Lancer players not relenting even for one play.  Stevenson and Johnson combined for 20 points and 10 rebounds in their finale as Hearts. Four in a row.  It's amazing.

CIAC Class L Girls: Tigers Tough Team Defense Shuts Down Cross-Secures 2nd School Title, 50-45 by CTHoopsNews

By Robbie Goodrich

#2 seed Daniel Hand girl’s basketball won the Class L by beating the #1 seed Holy Cross Crusaders 50-45.  The Tigers took home their first title in 18 years and the second in school history.  The Tigers (22-3) and Crusaders (23-2) battled it out and the game was won in the paint where Hand outscored Cross 20-12.  Coach Tim Tredwell made a change in strategy and felt it was what made the difference. He said, “We weren’t hitting shots.  I think the defense was there and it was a matter once we started making shots then they started to feel comfortable. We started to relax.”   He added, “We were afraid they would pound it inside and just punish us for it. Honest to God, it was that switch from man to zone. That really kind of keyed our kids in.  They fed off that change.”   Now you can change their names to champions.

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Holy Cross has a big athletic frontcourt led by juniors Aiyana Ward, Meah Austin and Century McCartney.   Hand did an excellent job containing the trio.  Hand defenders limited Ward, Austin and McCartney to just 14 combined points. 

Holy Cross had early success and led at the end of first quarter, 14-13, and at halftime 33-28.  Holy Cross benefited from Idalis Miranda’s hot hand. She scored 9 points all coming off long balls.  However, her hot shooting cooled in the second half.  She didn’t make a bucket. The Hand defense was stifling, no Crusader scored in double figures going 16-46 from the field.  Holy Cross was limited to one field goal the last 10 minutes of the game.

The Tigers of Hand played a little more efficiently than its opponent.  The diminutive Emma Sullivan led the Tigers with 12 points off of 5-7 shooting.  Sullivan a 5’4 guard remarked, “We were only down like five at the half.  So, when we realized were playing good we thought about how much that we could be up by if we played to our best. We went out and took it to them.” She added, “We were very confident going in and we just believed in ourselves…” Sullivan, who categorized her self as not “spazzy” but “composed,” added this about winning the title, “It feels amazing, its unreal, its unbelievable.”  Gabby Egidio scored 12 points for the champs and Sara Wohlgemuth added 8 points.

CIAC Class M Boys Championship: Joshi Intros Brookfield to Its Destiny-Beats Bloomfield 63-60 by CTHoopsNews

By Robbie Goodrich

The Class M boy’s championship was decided by a frantically fantastic play by Brookfield's Lucas Joshi.  The #11th seeded Bobcats completed their magical run with game-winning shot by Lucas Joshi with 3.9 seconds left on the clock and captured the school's first title in boy’s basketball 63-60 over 8th seed Bloomfield (19-6).  The 6’1 senior had only scored seven points and was 3-16 from the field before the game-winner fell.  Brookfield coach John Fleming was not surprised but clearly excited about the game winner.  Fleming said, “I don’t think I was breathing at that point, but again I kind of expected it to go in because it’s the way this whole season has gone.” He added,  “We felt like it was kind of a destiny thing. These guys deserve it. They work hard in the offseason too, and just did a great job.”

Brookfield (19-6) and Bloomfield battled for Class M supremacy in front of thousands and didn’t disappoint.  Senior Bobcat Austin DaSilva played all 32 minutes, scored 19 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and nearly achieved an infamous triple-double with 9 turnovers.  DaSilva said this about Joshi’s play; “I saw endless fight from Lucas. (We) missed the first one, saw another shot go up, got that rebound and put it up.  All the time he spent in gym is finally paying off.”  Breaking the hearts of the Warhawks was no easy task. 

Brookfield defenders stalked Bloomfield all day.  The Bobcats held Bloomfield to 20-68 from the field.  Having a team miss 48 shots in a 32-minute game is amazing.  Combine that with Bloomfield only making 16-27 ft’s it was surprising that it was a tie game with 19.2 seconds left.  Bloomfield’s Josh Moore-Henry (14 pts-8 rebs) tied the game with two ft’s.  Brookfield brought the ball down and Christian Saltarelli missed a close-range shot but Joshi was in position for the putback.  The celebration was halted by a quick timeout by Bloomfield.  To put it plainly, the inbound pass, the travel that was called, and the call for a timeout that was seemingly ignored or not heard or not granted because of the travel that was called could be debated.  This is what we captured.

What we do know is that Bloomfield struggled to score.  The Bobcats overall size and strength bothered the smaller lineup of Bloomfield.   Bobcats coach John Fleming talked about their preparation and said, “We spent the last two days just working on our backline defense, keeping everything contained inside the paint. We said if they’re going to beat us, let them beat us with jump shots.”  It paid off.  David Albanese provided much of the force down low for the Bobcats. He scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Warhawks most consistent player this year, Jordan Pruit was a miserable 3-17 from the field and was held scoreless in the second half. He finished with only 11 points.  Bloomfield last led 11-9 with 2:45 left in the first quarter. The Warhawks were fortunate to have an opportunity to steal the game at the end.  Chris Rose added 11 and Dexter Lawson added 12 points and five rebounds. 

An 11 seed team winning a state title is amazing and a team needs veteran players to do it.  Coach Fleming summarized the #Run2Sun by talking about his seniors.  He said, “We had a veteran team this year.  Five seniors started most of the year.” So, you know, when you lost a few tough game you sort of learn from that. We sort of put it together and when it just kept happening we started to believe in ourselves even more.”  We believe. 

 

CIAC Class LL Boys Championship: Hillhouse Captures 24th State Title-Beats East Hartford 78-58 by CTHoopsNews

By Robbie Goodrich

Hillhouse (24-1) boy’s basketball captured its 24th state championship by soundly beating East Hartford 78-58.   The two-dozen championships are a benchmark for Connecticut success and certainly for elite national programs to compare themselves to.  This year’s journey for the Academics was filled with victories against the now NYC CHSAA AA Champion Cardinal Hayes, Springfield Central, MA at the HoopHall Classic, and ended with a sweep of CCC stalwarts East Catholic and East Hartford.  It’s an amazing run to complete without injuries (Kasperzyk & Adams), without new pieces (Mehki Warren), and without having to play a title game with one-half of the CIAC’s top tandem (Breland-DQ’d).   Academics coach Renard Sutton reflected on his team’s journey, he said, “We played some tough games…Truth be told, even when we went up to play Ledyard it was a challenging game for us.  We like to play these games to get prepared for games like today.”  He added this about his team, “We build them up. We build our kids up.  They’re coached up.  They’re in tip-top shape. We thrive on conditioning.  We drill a lot. So I mean, this is just a payoff for all the work they have done.  I love those guys.” 

In the Academic’s semifinal victory over East Catholic junior swingman Byron Breland, III was ejected for picking up two technical fouls.  By rule, he was ineligible to participate in the title game.  His absence, not visible to the scoreboard watchers but the Hillhouse players and the Academic family had Tre in their minds all night. 

East Hartford was blitzed off the bus.  Hillhouse opened the game with a 7-0 run. It was tied 7-7 with less than three minutes left in the first quarter and House just exploded finishing the quarter on 11-1 run.  It was Davon Warner filling in for Breland that scored eight points in the opening quarter.  He finished tied for a game-high with Joey Kasperzyk with 19 points.  He was the next man up.  He delivered. 

 

Starting the second up 18-8 the Academics drove the lead up to 18 points in a three-minute span.  In that span, Hillhouse’s 6’5 junior Christian Adams and senior Joey Kasperzyk combined to score 16 straight points for the House.  Adams hit three consecutive long balls and Kasperzyk hit free throws and layups to extend the lead to 34-16.  It was a breath-taking display of offensive weaponry.  East Hartford couldn’t stop it.  Adams finished with 13 points and five rebounds while Kasperzyk finished with 19 points and hit on 9 of 11 free throws.  Kasperzyk said, “It’s been a long road to the championship.  We had a few injuries.  I had few injuries. I was out for a few games but I knew my team would hold me down.  We played great defense tonight.” He added this about the run Adams and he made, “I seen when Christian was feeling it.  He hit a couple threes and once he hit a couple he was due for a few more. So we just played a little pick and pop.” That run blew this game out of reach and sent East Hartford to the mat. 

The final wasn’t a flawless last act of the LL season.  There were 56 combined turnovers, and 54 free throws taken as a result of 47 called fouls.  It was at times a messy, physical battle that Hillhouse was built much better to endure.   East Hartford’s frontcourt of Justin and Austin Nwafor managed to combine for 22 points and 11 rebounds, but the Hornets PG Isaiah Williams struggled to make plays.  He was limited to 2 of 11 from the field and just nine points and zero assists.  It was an epic struggle all night for the Hornets.

Noteworthy: Mehki Warren, Hillhouse’s 6’5 big man scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds.  He played big minutes early and took ownership of the paint.  Hillhouse will have Adams, Warren, 6’6 Rashawn Brewer and 6’4 Byron Breland returning.  Hillhouse will start its quest to bring back their 25th championship to #480ShermanPkwy with a talented and experienced core.  Watch out for the 3-Peat!

CIAC Class LL Girls: New London's Pagan and Squad Return to the Top with 42-36 Victory Over #1 Seed Trumbull by CTHoopsNews

By Robbie Goodrich

India Pagan won a title as a freshman, worked hard and battled to get back to the finals in her junior year but lost to Capital Prep 51-48, and now as senior has completed her journey in high school back on top with New London’s 42-36 Class LL victory over #1 seed Trumbull (23-2).  Pagan, overwhelmed with emotion and shedding tears said,  “It feels amazing. I told everyone I’m going to be crying for days because we wanted this so much. I came in with a state championship and now I'm leaving with a state championship. It’s amazing.” 

It was Pagan who was amazing.  She had a game-high in points-18, a game high in rebounds-11, and played 31 scorching minutes in her high school finale.  Trumbull, as the #1 seed, played the Whalers tight all game.  New London came out with an 11-8 first quarter lead and held a 23-20 at the half.  Both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm. Tough resilient defense from both teams was to blame for the sluggish offense. New London limited Trumbull to just 35.3% (6-17) in the first half.  Pagan paced New London with 10 first half points but no other Whaler scored more than four.  Each squad turned the ball over nine times. 

Trumbull closed the gap to just one point at the end of the third quarter.  Trumbull’s Julie Keckler played inspire ball.  Through the third quarter, she had 7 points, five steals, fours assists, and three rebounds.  She ended up fouling out in the fourth and finished with team-high 12 points but had eight costly turnovers. 

The teams evenly matched and the score close 32-31. What would happen? Well, the Whaler team defense kicked into overdrive. The Whaler defense overwhelmed Trumbull in the fourth.  Trumbull didn’t score a point for over six minutes.  It was Julie Keckler’s three that tightened the score 40-34 with less than a minute and a half to go.  India Pagan talked about the Whaler’s defensive focus, “Defense, that’s New London basketball.  That’s what coach Holly strives for.  Defense, defense, defense.”  New London had plenty of opportunities to stretch its lead in the fourth but only converted 4-13 free throws.  Still, the Whalers prevailed; tears of joy and smiles of wonderment graced the smiles of the New London faithful that came to support their hometown team.  Coach Holly Misto said, “The support is tremendous.  Not just the community, but the families, the students, the boy’s team has done so much for us. They came in and scrimmaged against us the other day even after their season was over.  So, you know, it’s really really special and I enjoy being in New London.  I’m so glad that I coach there.  I’m very fortunate and very blessed for the athletes I that have." Im sure its mutual.

 

Noteworthy: New London’s Xaryia Melendez added 10 points and 7 rebounds for the LL Champions.

CIAC Class S Boys Championship: Trinity Catholic Powers Its Way to Its 7th State Championship 61-52 Over Westbrook by CTHoopsNews

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By Robbie Goodrich

Seven.  That’s the new total of state championships for the Crusaders of Trinity Catholic.  Connecticut coaching legend Mike Walsh was humbly satisfied after his team’s championship victory.  Walsh gave credit to his assistant coaches he said, “Allow me to talk about my assistant coaches, in particular, Brian Griffin. Brian was with me for the first time this year. He is the former head coach at St. Lukes.  He did so much in practice and also in game preparation. I’m really proud of him.” 

Trinity Catholic outlasted a very game Westbrook squad 61-52. Westbrook made five threes in the first quarter but Trinity still led 18-17 after one.   Walsh commented on how Cameron Blake slowed down the Knights after the first.  He said, “24 (Cory Muckle-15 pts off 5-20 shooting) and 14 (Liam Bell-23 pts off 8-22 shooting) are really good players but 24, you know, he makes them go and he (Blake) kind of took him off and made him work for everything.”  Blake added nine points.  It was still tight at the half with Trinity up 36-29. Dimitry Moise was excellent in the first half and scored 16 of his team-high 20 points in the first half.

Westbrook struggled with the physicality of the Crusaders frontcourt.  6’6 Dutreil Contavio used his size and strength to protect the goal and grab offensive rebounds.  He scored 13 points, grabbed 13 rebounds (7 offensive), and blocked five shots.  Westbrook fell behind 49-39 after three but made a run in the fourth.  Westbrook held Trinity scoreless for the first four minutes of the fourth.  After Liam Bell made two free throws the Knights were within one 51-50.  It was Peter Galgano who stole the ball on Westbrook 3 on 1 break.  Galgano’s play stopped Westbrook’s momentum.  Galgano scored 11 points and added two steals but none bigger than the last.   Trinity coach Mike Walsh will miss Galgano, and said, “He’s got a heart as big as the whole state of Connecticut. He’s really a good kid, tough kid and he always seems to come up with the right play, loose ball, and stuff like that. I’m sad to see him leave to be honest with you.  He’ll go on and do well at the next level.  Galgano remarked, “Never quit, all season no matter the odds we got to come out on top.”  That’s what Trinity did.  They finished the game on a 10-2 run and secured the seventh title in school history.  

 

 

CIAC Class S Girls Championship: Canton Repeats-Defeats Golden Bears in Finals Rematch by CTHoopsNews

By Robbie Goodrich

In the finals rubber match between #3 seed Canton and #5 seed Thomaston the Warriors stifled the Golden Bears and won 61-50.  Thomaston shot 29.8 % from the field and their star player, Casey Carangleo was held to 5-21 shooting.  Canton used a combo of strategies but primarily used 6’3 sophomore Sarah Bowman to frustrate and harass Carangelo on almost every possession.  Senior Emily Briggs, who scored a game-high 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots, said this about Bowman’s effort, “Sarah did a great job. That was her role. She did her best to contest her shots.”   

Canton and Thomaston have quite a rivalry going.  This is the schools' third straight finals matchup.  Canton coach Brian Medeiros commented on how that influenced their strategy. He said, “It's amazing, there was no secrets.  We knew what they were going to do and they knew what we were going to do.  It just came back to who was going to be the team that made better decisions with the ball, made the free throws, (and) defended without getting in foul trouble.  We just said today was going to be won by all the little things and I think we kind of showed that.” 

 

Noteworthy: Canton got great contributions from Abgail Charron with 15 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds as well as 10 points from Belle Magna.  While Thomaston’s Julia Quinn had a team-high of 23 points only her and Carangelo reached double figures. 

CIAC Finals Game Previews: LL,L,& M by CTHoopsNews

By Robbie Goodrich

CLASS LL

  • #4 East Hartford                                                                   #2 Hillhouse                                                                                    
  • Nickname: Hornets                                                                Nickname: Academics                                                                      
  • Coach: Ed Lavoie                                                                   Coach: Renard Sutton                                                                      
  •  League: CCC                                                                         League: SCC                                                                                      
  • Reg. Season Record: 18-2                                                      Reg. Season Record: 19-1

Hillhouse, the defending LL champs will attempt to capture its 24th state title without Byron Breland, III.  Breland is ineligible due to his ejection from the Academics’ semifinal victory over East Catholic.  Breland is a rangy, athletic wing that could stretch defenses with timely threes, and was known to defend relentlessly.  Big loss.  Under normal circumstances and with a normal team it would be sure defeat.  However, Hillhouse is coached by Renard Sutton and will most likely go with a three-guard combo of Joey Kaspersky (1000 point scorer), Tyler Doulas, and Davon Warner.  It’s a good three-guard combo.   Unlike Hillhouse, East Hartford is unfamiliar territory.  This is the first final for the Hornets in 60 plus years.  PG Isaiah Williams is a complete player with a flair for the dramatic.  He hit a huge three in their semifinal win over Weaver and is the first weapon Hillhouse will have to check.  The Hornets have size and strength in the frontcourt.   They have brothers Austin and Justin Nwafor.  The pair stands at 6’5 and 6’6 with the bulk that may bother House’s Mehki Warren and Rayshawn Brewer.  Coach Ed Lavoie said, “Luckily, I have my twins to combat them. It should be pretty even, we have to see how Hillhouse will try to slow down Justin in the paint.” He added, “We will need to keep the House off the glass." Even without Breland Hillhouse has a slight edge.  Look for a low scoring affair with the Academics fighting off a late comeback attempt by the Hornets. 

 

CLASS L

  • #1 Sacred Heart                                                                    #2 Notre Dame-Fairfield                                                                
  • Nickname: Hearts                                                                  Nickname: Lancers                                                                              
  • Coach: Jonathan Carroll                                                        Coach: Chris Watts                                                                        
  • League: NVL                                                                          League: SWC                                                                                        
  • Reg. Season Record: 20-0                                                     Reg. Season Record: 18-2

 

The Hearts will attempt to bring home a 4th consecutive CIAC championship.  The first two were in Class S, the next in Class M (against the Lancers) and all with Mustapha Heron.  Heron, being best player Connecticut H.S. basketball has ever seen.  The Hearts lost Raheem Solomon to injury and I have doubted their dominance could persist without a top talent leading the squad.   I was wrong.  The Hearts ripped through the L’s and then beat top CCC team Middletown 70-56.  Isaiah Gaiter and company must not be undersold.  He is a top tier talent with the physical tools as well as the skills to lead any CIAC team.  The Lancers have a 1st-year coach, Chris Watts, and haven’t missed a step.  The question to be answered in this game is: Will Tyler Bourne and Noreaga Davis be able to score enough points to put pressure on the Hearts?  I’m not sure its possible.  Granted I have only seen game-tape and highlight film of ND FFLD.  It seems plausible that Courie Stevenson, Omar Rowe, and Legend Johnson can slow down any combo any Class L school can put up.  I expect the Hearts to prevail.  If not, it’s a great opening act for Chris Watts that will be hard to duplicate.

 

CLASS M

  • #8 Bloomfield                                                                        #11 Brookfield                                                                                  
  • Nickname: Warhawks                                                               Nickname: Bobcats                                                                        
  • Coach: Gary Barcher                                                                Coach: John Fleming                                                                          
  • League: CCC                                                                             League: SWC                                                                                        
  • Reg. Season Record: 15-5                                                         Reg. Season Record: 14-6

The Warhawks had another wonderful season with Gary Barcher.  Thinking of it, wasn’t he asked not to come back this year?  Anyways.  Dexter Lawson, Jordan Pruit, Russell Thompson-Bishop, and Chris Rose are a huge problem for most if not all of the CIAC’s backcourts.  Their pressure and relentless harassment of the ball will pose a big problem for Brookfield.  Seeing a distinct quickness as well as speed advantage for Bloomfield so I expect Brookfield to be held to less than 50 points.  Bloomfield gets a championship. 

CIAC Class LL Semifinal: Hillhouse Wins Ugly. Beats East Catholic 53-45. Breland out of Finals by CTHoopsNews

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By Robbie Goodrich

In a CIAC Class LL semifinal #2 seed Hillhouse defeated #3 seed East Catholic 53-45. Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton was content in playing a stifling brand of defense and conservative offense.  Circumstances or the parts of the game that coaches and players can’t control could have been better.  The officials didn’t have their best night.  In the end, Hillhouse returns to yet another finals and will attempt to win its 24 state championship this weekend at Mohegan Sun.  They will play the winner of the Kennedy-East Hartford game.  Coach Sutton talked about his team’s season up to this point, he remarked, “I’m happy, I’m happy for the kids. The kids, they gutted it out all season. They played through injuries, we played through illnesses and the guys come together and just fought.  I’m just happy for them.”

The Academics started strong and it was Mehki Warren and Christian Adams that led Hillhouse to a 14-5 first quarter lead. Warren is a 6’5 athletic center scored six of his points and blocked 2 of his 5 blocks on the night.  Adams played terrific defense and scored 4 points as the Academics pulled ahead and never looked back. 

The entire night East Catholic struggled to find any easy opportunities and at times looked frustrated by the physical play of Hillhouse.   East Catholic was held to just 15 first half points.  The Eagles were forced to shoot off-balanced and awkward shots from difficult angles.   This is what Hillhouse’s defense does best.  The Academics pressure the ball and have size to protect the basket.  He said, “We strategized. We had a game plan.  They are a great team and we just to come with high intensity. We played hard on the defensive end.”  Hillhouse led 24-15. 

Hillhouse didn’t score much either but it didn’t have to.  It was clear that coach Sutton understood he had an advantage at nearly every position.  In the second half, both teams struggled scoring buckets.  In a strangely intense and at times physical third quarter Hillhouse outscored East 9-8 and took a 33-23 lead into the fourth.  However the third is where the Academics junior swingman, Byron Breland, III picked up two technical.  The first was for a scrum with East’s Matt Veretto (17 points) where it looks like Breland shoves Veretto while he is on top of him.  This was the right time for a technical to be called.  The second was not.  On a rebound, Breland was clearly bodied by Veretto while securing it.  Breland can be seen yelling at the official to call a foul. This is was the wrong time for an official to be offended.  See the video here.

Nearly a day later we are able to confirm Breland cannot play in the LL finals.   Immediately following the game Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton said, “We’ll have to regroup, we’ll have to regroup and find a way to win.” 

In the fourth East got as close as six 41-35 with 2:23 remaining and once again at 1:13 49-43.  East couldn’t capitalize on a few open looks from three.  It should be noted that the Academics were terrible from the charity stripe in the fourth.  They went 12-28 in the fourth quarter.  And that’s that! No Breland in the finals.  Will this serve as motivation for the Academics in their quest to bring back their 24th championship to #480ShermanPkwy? 

 

Noteworthy: Only Matt Veretto scored in double figures for East Catholic. In his last high school game, Mike McGuirl only scored 4 points and no field goals. Joey Kasperzyk scored 11 points and Davon Warner scored 10.

CIAC Class M and S Quarterfinals: Images Holy Cross, Waterbury Career, Canton and Prince Tech by CTHoopsNews

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CIAC Class L Quarterfinals: Blue Dragons Advance to Semifinals with 81-69 Victory Over Ledyard by CTHoopsNews

By Robbie Goodrich

Middletown (20-3) came out spitting fire in their Class L quarterfinal matchup against Ledyard. They were able to hold on and win 81-69.  The 4th seeded Blue Dragons hit 11 three-pointers and had five players score in double figures.  Tyshawn James scored 20 points; DeAaron Lawrence 19 points, Ahmod Privott 15 points, Charles Sprowl 12 points and Dayquan Singletary added 11 points.  The Blue Dragons worked fast in their aggressive offense and the breakneck pace allowed them to race out to a 35-21 halftime lead and led 60-38 after three.

The game changed as the Blue Dragons changed their strategy.  Ledyard made a 24-8 run to make it 68-62 with less than 2:30 to go.  Middletown Coach Ricky Privott said, “Individuals don’t win you got to do it as a team and we went for individual shots and took some bad shots.”   When asked about slowing it down coach Privot added, “The clock was our friend at that point. We like to say we have a new teammate, you know, the clock. We have to be patient and work the clock.”   Ledyard came alive while Middletown was working the clock.  In the fourth quarter, Steven Fletcher scored 8 points and Isiah McNair tossed in 12.  Fletcher finished with 20 points and McNair’s 21 were a game-high.  Middletown settled down and finished on a 13-7 run to put Ledyard to bed.

 

Noteworthy: Middletown will face #1 seed Sacred Heart.  The Hearts beat Windsor 58-52.  The game is scheduled for Wednesday, March 15th 7pm Bulkeley.  When asked about the matchup coach Privot said, “They are long and they like to run, we are going to try and slow them down.  If you want to be the best you have to beat the best.” 

CIAC Class LL Quarterfinals: Hornets Sting Beavers with a Late Fourth Quarter Barrage-Win 69-63 by CTHoopsNews

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By Robbie Goodrich

In a Class LL classic, #4 seed East Hartford (21-2) stung the #5 seed Weaver Beavers (20-3) 69-63.  The Hornets of East Hartford capitalized on Weaver’s fourth quarter mishaps and sunk the Beaver’s voyage to a fourth straight CIAC final. They Kennedy of Waterbury in the semifinals on March 14th at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on New Haven.   Ed Lavoie’s team celebrated their quarterfinal win by storming the court.  East Hartford was clearly ecstatic with putting together another big effort in the 2016-17 season. Lavoie said, “I’m proud of the kids, you know, I wanted them to get this feeling.  They worked hard and were resilient, and didn’t give up down six.”  He added, “We were able to will our way at the end and make big baskets when we needed to.” 

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Senior Kingsley Cockburn with 17 points, five rebounds, and six assists led the Hornets to victory.  Cockburn went 7-10 from the free throw line and hit timely threes to keep his team close.  When asked about his team’s win he said, “It’s the greatest feeling in the world right now.  Everybody didn’t think we’d win today and we proved everybody wrong, but we got more work to do.” Weaver sharp shooter Alex Rodriguez scored nine first half point that saw Weaver PG Jaecee Martin pick up two fouls with 2:05 left in the first quarter.  Rodriguez finished with 15 points all coming from three-point shots.

Combine a bussing problem with Weaver having two starters (Reggie Tolliver and Andre Lyons) sitting out for most of the first quarter due to a coach’s decision and one would expect East Hartford to be up.  Despite that Weaver still led 17-14.  The Beaver’s fought hard and kept the game close until they got their rhythm back.  Coach Reggie Hatchett said, “Reggie was disciplined for conduct detrimental to the team for a quarter.  He added, “I am very strict with kids behavior, my policy is if a teacher calls me about a player’s behavior its an automatic quarter.”  Coach Hatchet credited the Hornets defense and said, “They played some great defense. Lavoie did a good job coaching them.  He added, “Their length inside really bothered Jaquan (Williams-5 points) and he didn’t get his usual double-double.” Weaver trailed at the half 31-28, but built a small lead by the end of the third quarter 48-44.

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East Hartford trailed 54-48 and after Weaver’s Jaquan Williams two buckets sandwiched Hornets’ Aaron Tomlinson’s two free throws the lead for Weaver was 58-52.  An incredible sequence happened next.   East Hartford’s Austin Nwafor converted a Weaver turnover and the lead was cut to 58-54.  Then Weaver called a timeout. Leaving them with just one left with 2:46 remaining.  Weaver couldn’t inbound the ball safely and Kingsley Cockburn stole the ball and made it 58-56. Another Weaver mistake led to a wide-open three attempt by Isaiah Williams.  Swish! It was Williams’ three-pointer that put the Hornets on top 59-58.  Chaylyn Martin was able to put Weaver briefly back on top 61-59 by making 3 out of 4 ft’s.  Coach Hatchett lamented, “I think our guys tend to be very emotional and allow one mistake or call to dictate the next 30-seconds or the next minute.” Hatchett recalled the sequence and said, “Jaquan had a rebound and he was fouled on the rebound, but they didn’t call it and the ball popped out and they ended up getting a layup.”  He added,  “If they call the foul, and Jaquan was shooting well from the free throw line tonight, and we were in the double bonus, and we go up seven or eight it is a totally different game."  Coach Hatchett also talked about how is players must be able to move on from the non-calls and still perform at their best.  He concluded by saying, “That plagued us all year, whenever we made one mistake we would make three.”   The game changed and East Hartford players and coaches rushed the floor as the buzzer expired.

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Noteworthy: Jaecee Martin scored a game-high 19 points, and Chaylyn Martin scored 17 but they didn’t hit a field goal in the fourth.  It was uncharacteristic for the Martin’s to let another team wrestle a victory from them.  It was a reminder that these elite student athletes are just teenagers.  The Martins play this game with a great degree of character and had great success despite the many challenges foisted upon them.   East Hartford outscored Weaver 25-15 in the fourth.

 

 

 

 

 

CIAC Class LL Quarterfinals: Eagles Swoop Down on the Hatters in Second Half, Advance to Semifinals with 65-60 Victory by CTHoopsNews

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By Robbie Goodrich

Danbury (15-8) ended #1 seed Notre Dame of West Haven’s season and attempted to end the 8th seeded Kennedy Eagles (19-4) season.  The attempt failed. Kennedy defeated Danbury 65-60 to advance to the LL semifinals to face East Hartford who beat Weaver 69-63.  That game is scheduled for March 14th at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven. 

Kennedy fell behind 15-12 after one and was trailing 26-20 at the half.  Danbury benefited by 10 first-half points from senior Marcus Fox, he finished with 16 points to lead the Hatters in scoring.

The Eagles came out in the second half with a different strategy and played a quirky 1-3-1 half-court trapping zone-like defense that made Danbury stumble.  Kennedy coach Ryan Sullivan said, “Sure enough that third quarter, I mean 22 to 9 points and two field goals that was a game changer for us, and gave us confidence going into the fourth.”  He added this about his strategy, “A lot of teams don’t see it and a lot of teams don’t practice against.  For us, it just works.”  On offense, it was Chomari Smith who continued his excellent play.  In the third, he scored 8 of his game-high 18 points.  When asked about his performance he said, “I just tried to stay strong, coach said, this was a tough team.” He added, “Coach kind of changed up the game plan and he said we need to play stronger and faster.”  The Eagles did just that

There were other things that worked and worked well.  The Eagles got timely fourth quarter shooting by 6’6 forward Lashawn Smith.  Smith, who missed several three’s in the first three-quarters drained two consecutive to start the fourth quarter driving the Eagle lead to 51-40, Smith finished with 12 points.  The Eagles were soaring.  Danbury made one last run.  A 10-1 spurt put the Hatters within two at 58-56.  It wasn’t enough. 

Noteworthy: The Eagles had four players score in double figures, Ty Sands-11 points,  Lashawn Smith- 12 points, Tyvon Stevenson-15 points and Chomari Smith-18-points.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CIAC Class LL Quarterfinal: McGuirl and Company Slam Prep 66-48 to earn Semis Matchup with Hillhouse by CTHoopsNews

By Robbie Goodrich

East Catholic is a marching on to the LL semifinals after its 66-48 victory over Fairfield Prep.  The Eagles used solid defense, and opportunistic offense to overcome a size difference in the paint. Junior Matt Veretto led East with 20 points while Joey Reilly and Mike McGuirl both added 16 points for the victors, who will face 2nd see Hillhouse on Tuesday at a site to be determined.  The Eagles were ready for the size and strength of Prep’s frontcourt.  Veretto said, “We had a game plan, and we knew we wanted to deny the ball from getting down low and letting them post up and score layups, we did that in the first half.” Prep’s frontcourt of 6’5 John Kelly and 6’8 Patrick Harding of Prep was held to just 10 first half points.  East was up big 29-14 at the end of the first half. 

East Catholic used a combination of strategies to slow down the front-court of Prep.  Mike McGuirl, playing his last home game picked up Kelly in the first quarter and held him to just one field goal.  More importantly, his defense set a tone that East was going to out work Prep.  McGuirl said, “John Kelly is a great player and coming into the game we had a big focus on him, I wanted the task of guarding him and it just worked out well for us in the first half.”  McGuirl is a selfless player in a sometimes overly selfish game. He didn’t force any shots in the first half but rebounded and defended as well as he has all year.  McGuirl finished the first half with just two points.  Coach Reilly reflected on McGuirl’s performance, “Sometimes in these big games, the place is sold-out and players want to force it.”  He added, “I tell the guys to let the game come to them and that’s what he did and he got it done.”  

McGuirl, who is committed to play at Kansas State next year, took over the fourth quarter in a way that can only be considered spectacular.  The Eagles led 41-29 after three but everyone was still expecting Prep to make a run.  It didn’t happen.  Mike McGuirl happened! He scored 10 of his teams first 12 fourth quarter points.  Two of those came on a vicious left-handed dunk up and over the 6’8 Harding and 6’6 Robert Haskins.  The play signified the end for Prep.  Veretto, Reilly, and McGuirl all made free throws to cap off a convincing 66-48 victory.

Noteworthy: Patrick Harding led Prep with 15 points and John Kelly added 12 in the loss.

 

 

CIAC Class L 2nd Round: Hearts "Beat" NWC 58-41, Rebounds and Defense Push Hearts to Quaterfinals by CTHoopsNews

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By Robbie Goodrich

#1 seed Sacred Heart soundly beat 16th seed Northwest Catholic (NWC) 58-41 and in doing so advanced to the Class L quarterfinals where they will play the 9th seed Windsor Warriors.   The Hearts used tough defense, really suffocating and intense defense to shut down NWC. At the start, the Hearts put their best defender, Courie Stevenson on NWC’s PG Luca Mirabello.  It was his ball pressure that set the tone and NWC would never be able to find any offense rhythm.  Plain and simple the Hearts defended and rebounded their way to victory.  Isaiah Gaiter was excellent.  Gaiter is a 6’4 versatile guard who is new to the Hearts this year.  He finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds. It was extraordinary effort but Hearts coach Jon Carroll doesn’t expect anything less.  Carrol said, “Defensively this is as solid an effort as I’ve seen.”  He said, “I’d like to say that I am surprised with my guys but even with Raheem going down but this is the group for two years that were the scout team that played against our team last year, they were playing against Charles, Mustapha, Tyrn and Raheem.” He added, “They aren’t going to be intimidated.”  

Gaiter, a transfer from Platt in Meriden, has had to play many roles for the Hearts. This season he has shown toughness and patience.  He is a talented player that can play 1-4. He scored tough buckets with defenders swarming around him, mid-range jumpers, and rebounded like a man on a mission. When asked about the pressure of these games Gaiter said, “No pressure for us, we came in here looking to do what we had to do which was rebound, play good defense and share the ball. Overall as a team, we did very well at containing them on defense.”   At the end of a physical first half, the Hearts led 26-20.

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In third, the Hearts continued to put out max effort and were getting to every loose ball.  NWC played tough in the third but everyone but Cairo McCrory was shut down. McCory, a 6’5 sophomore is a rising start but received little help from his teammates.  He led his team with 19 points.  If not for a rare four-point play by Christopher Chapell with 1:20 remaining in the third the Hearts would have extended the lead beyond its 35-31 margin after three.

In the fourth, it was Gaiter’s seven points in the first two and half minutes of the quarter that pushed the game out of reach for NWC.  The Hearts led 44-32 with 5:15 remaining and it was over.  Omar Rowe added 8 of his 9 points in the fourth and went 6-6 from the line.  The Hearts outscored a wary NWC 23-10 in the final quarter and showed once again they are capable of closing out a tough opponent.

 

Noteworthy: Hearts senior Legend Johnson scored 14 points.  

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