Blogs >'s Boys Hoops Run to the Sun

Follow all the coverage of boys high school basketball throughout the state on their way to Mohegan Sun Arena, the site of this year's championship weekend, March 15-16.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Shoreline shocker

I have been to over 40 games this season and the one I attended Friday night in the Shoreline Confrence championship game between Valley Regional and Old Lyme was easily in the top five along with:

1) Wilbur Cross handing Career its first loss of the season on a 25-footer by Gerald McClease
2) Fairfield Prep coming from behind to beat Notre Dame Fairfield and win its holiday tournament
3) Notre Dame-WH handing Fairfield Prep its first loss in overtime at home
4) St. Joes coming from behind to beat Bassick in overtime

Of course, the biggest reason is Old Lyme pulled the stunning upset. Yes, these are Class S teams, but in a sold-out gym of 800 (and probably plenty more) at Old Saybrook, both crowds were into it, plenty more than at any of the SCC tournament games played at Quinnipiac.

Consider the road Old Lyme took to get to the final: beat the defending champion Hyde - which the Wildcats had lost to twice during the regular season - on the road. Then they beat the Shoreline champ two years ago, Cromwell, also on the road. Cromwell beat Old Lyme during the season as well. And both Hyde and Cromwell had won the last two Class S state titles.

Valley was up 17 late in the second quarter, but Old Lyme came all the way back to cut it to one late in the third and hit a 3-point shot to send the game into overtime. Then the Wildcats went up by 5 in OT and won by 2.

This is a big upset. Valley had just one loss coming in - to Glastonbury by 2 in late December and the Tomahawks are one of the better teams in the CCC -and hadn't had a win in the single digits since winning by eight at Hyde on Jan. 19.
I've always been a big believer that playing a lack of close games hurts when you get into a close one with everything on the line. As Old Lyme coach Kirk Kaczor said, the pressure was entirely on Valley. And Valley coach Kevin Woods said his club played not to lose.

The Wildcats played great, the crowd for both sides was great. It all made for a great atmosphere. The state has gotten away from playing in band-box gyms for the obvious reason - fans get shut out like they did Friday night, over 100 left standing in the cold at Old Saybrook. So it's nice to still have games like these.

Bigger arenas don't always lend itself to better atmospheres. Such was the case Friday night in a little town called Old Saybrook. And Old Lyme pulled off one of the season's biggest upsets.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Remaining league tournament finals

The final round of predictions. Here goes:

CCC final: No. 4 Windsor vs. No. 2 Maloney at Bulkeley, 7 p.m.

Windsor has been on a roll and comes off a 35-point beatdown of previously undefeated Northwest Catholic in the semifinals. Maloney is one of two undefeated teams left in the state and has had a fine season in arguably the state's best conference. But that run likely comes to an end tonight.
Prediction: Windsor by 15.

SWC final: No. 1 Notre Dame-Fairfield vs. No. 3 Pomperaug at Weston, 7:30 p.m.
Notre Dame overcame a late two-game losing streak in the regular season to gain the top seed and then beat Kolbe Cathedral for a third time in the semifinals. Pomperaug ousted the defending champ, Stratford, in the semis and has had a fine season in its own right. Notre Dame won the regular-season matchup 73-62 on Feb. 21.
Prediction: Notre Dame by 6.

CSC final: No. 1 Capital Prep vs. No. 2 Classical Magnet at New Haven Athletic Center, 6 p.m.
Capital Prep has won 17 straight games, including a 15-point win over Classical Magnet. They have a fabulous guard in sophomore Khalil Dukes. He's worth a look for the New Haven area fans looking to see a game.
Prediction: Capital Prep

ECC final: No. 1 New London vs. No. 7 Stonington
New London hasn't played a close game in over a month. That won't change Friday.
Prediction: New London.

Shoreline final: No. 1 Valley Regional vs. No. 7 Old Lyme at Old Saybrook, 7 p.m.
Old Lyme has pulled two seeded upsets to get here, knocking off No. 3 Hyde and No. 2 Cromwell in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. Can the Wildcats pull off one more? Valley Regional hasn't lost a league game yet and is searching  for its first league title since 1984.
Prediction: Valley gets that elusive title.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

State tournament outlook

The CIAC state tournament pairings were released today. Let's break down what the brackets look like in each of the four divisions.

Class LL
With 28 teams having qualified, the top four seeds, Windsor, St. Joseph, Hartford Public and Holy Cross, received byes into the second round next Wednesday. There are eight teams from the Southern Connecticut Conference in the field, two of which are playing one another next Monday night.

No. 23 Notre Dame-West Haven travels to New Haven to take on No. 10 Wilbur Cross, which now takes on a whole new dimension if Cross' top player, Gerald McClease cannot play. McClease injured his knee in the final minute of the SCC tournament semifinal on Tuesday night. These two teams squared off in the same round two years ago in West Haven, won by Notre Dame.
No. 6 Hillhouse hosts No. 27 Harding while No. 17 Xavier, No. 20 Cheshire, No. 21 Amity and No. 25 Hamden must all win road games in order to advance. Bridgeport Central, the defending champion, failed to qualify.

Class L
The only two undefeated teams are the top three teams in this division: Maloney and New London. Northwest Catholic also went 20-0, but lost 90-65 in the CCC Tournament semifinals Tuesday night. Twenty-eight teams also qualified here, meaning those three teams, along with No. 4 Lyman Hall, do not play until the second round next Thursday.

Defending champion Stratford is the sixth seed and will host No. 27 East Catholic. If seeding holds to form, Stratford could face New London in the quarterfinals next Monday - a rematch of last year's final.

No. 20 Branford plays at No. 13 Cheney Tech in the opening round. A win puts the Hornets on the road again Thursday against Lyman Hall. No. 22 Hand and No. 26 Sheehan, last year's Class M winner, face a pair of South-West Conference teams, No. 11 Masuk and No. 7 Pomperaug, respctively in the first round Tuesday.

Class M
Career is the top seed but will not get a bye because 34 teams have qualified. The Panthers will face the winner of Tolland and Barlow next Monday. Career could face No. 16 Foran in the second round and No. 8 Hyde in the quarterfinals if seeding holds to form.

No. 21 Ansonia plays at No. 21 Northwestern in the opening round next Monday.

Class S
Valley Regional is the top seed and will receive a bye into the second round on March 10. Potential opponents include Prince Tech (second round), Kolbe Cathedral (quarterfinals) and St. Paul (semifinals) if seeding holds to form.

No. 12 Coginchaug will host No. 21 Coventry while No. 19 Westbrook will play at No. 14 Somers in the opening round next Tuesday. Amistad Academy, in just its second year as a varsity program, finished 6-6 and earned the No. 23 seed and will open play at No. 10 Goodwin Tech.

SCC final tonight

You can read about the semifinal-round coverage here

Here is a capsule look at tonight's game:

No. 1 CAREER (21-1) vs. No. 2 HILLHOUSE (20-2)

When: Today, 7 p.m.

Where: TD Bank Sports Center, Quinnipiac University, Hamden


Tickets: $5.

Championship game appearances: This is Career's second appearance, winning the title in 2002. This is Hillhouse's ninth appearance, going 4-4.

What to look for: A chance for Career to sweep the season series. Career opened the season by beating Hillhouse, then won the second game on a buzzer-beater from Earl Hassel. The Panthers has a fine nucleus led by senior co-captains Kevin Hoff and Brandyn Benson and other strong contributors in Treyvon Moore, who had a game-high 16 points in Tuesday's semifinal-round win over Fairfield Prep, and Kenny Armstead (14). The Panthers won't wilt when Hillhouse brings its full-court pressure from guards Bobby Bynum, Andre Anderson and Dana Griffin. The Academics will need Freddie Wilson to be better than the nine points he scored in the semifinals. He had 28 in the last game against Career. Expect Drew Crudup to be a factor, as will as Louis Ellison in the rebounding department. While there won't be a buzzer-beating shot to determine the SCC champion, it will be tight in the final minutes. And Career will come out on top.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

FCIAC, NVL final

FCIAC: Bassick vs. Stamford at Webster Bank Arena, tonight
It's a good appetizer before the MAAC men's and women's college tournament coming up later this week (plenty of good tickets still available). Stamford has made a nice run as the No. 7 seed, beating both Ridgefield and Westhill. Bassick beat Stamford in the regular-season matchup back on Jan. 4. You are never sure which Bassick team will show up, but I think the good one does tonight and gets the FCIAC crown.
Prediction: Bassick.

NVL: Holy Cross vs. Crosby at Wilby, Wednesday
No surprise the top two seeds advanced to this point. Holy Cross swept the season series and has just one loss whil Crosby has four. Holy Cross has the league's best player in guard Mike Mallory and he is a difference-maker. But just when you think the streak finally is coming to an end, Crosby finds a way, like it did against Sacred Heart last year.
Prediction: Crosby remains the only team to win the NVL tournament, doing so for the eighth straight time.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tournament semifinal-round predictions

Here's your matchups and predictions, plenty of bulletin-board material for everyone to use:

NVL semifinals at Wilby, Monday:
No. 2 Crosby vs. No. 6 Wilby: These two split the season series and Wilby playing on its home floor. But Wilby is one of the state's true Jekyll-and-Hyde teams and Crosby is the reigning seven-time NVL champ.
Prediction: the champ plays for its eighth straight title.

No. 1 Holy Cross vs. No. 5. Watertown: Watertown knocked off Kennedy, the only team to beat Holy Cross this year. The Crusaders won't get caught napping in this one.
Prediction: Holy Cross.

FCIAC semifinals at Webster Bank Arena, Monday:
No. 4 Bassick vs. No. 8 Trinity Catholic: Trinity has played giant killer of late, beating both Ridgefield and St. Joseph, the latter in the quarterfinals. I think Bassick will benefit having played at Webster Bank already in an overtime loss to St. Joseph on Feb. 17.
Prediction: Bassick

No. 3 Westhill vs. No. 7 Stamford: Stamford has already beaten Westhill twice. It may be tough to beat a team three times in a season, but...
Prediction: Stamford

SCC tournament semifinals at Quinnipiac University, Tuesday
No. 3 Wilbur Cross vs. No. 2 Hillhouse: Speaking of beating a team three straight, that's what Hillhouse tries to do here. Cross needs to have a siginficant rebounding advantage to move on and needs to keep the turnovers to a minimum against Hillhouse's full-court pressure. This game is going to the final minute this time and ...
Prediction: Hillhouse by 4

No. 5 Fairfield Prep vs. No. 1 Career: Prep faces its toughest test yet. Career plays tenacious defense, which could offset a subpar offensive performance. But Prep has some weapons in Terry Tarpey and Rob Bier and Career needs to be better than it was against Amity. The Panthers will.
Prediction: Career, by 5.

Shoreline tournament semifinals at site of higher seed, Tuesday:
No. 5 Hale-Ray at No. 1 Valley Regional: It's been over a month since Valley had a win below double digits. Hale-Ray has had a good season, but this one is too much to ask, especially in Deep River.
Prediction: Valley moves on

No. 6 Old Lyme at No. 2 Cromwell: Old Lyme upset Hyde in the quarterfinals while Cromwell is seeking its third straight berth in the Shoreline final. That will happen.
Prediction: Cromwell

SWC Tournament semifinals at Masuk, Tuesday
No. 3 Pomperaug vs. No. 2 Stratford - Pomperaug lost by 10 at home to Stratford during the regular season. This game will be decided in the single digits this time, but the defending champion moves on.
Prediction: Stratford by 6.

No. 1 Notre Dame-Fairfield vs. No. 4 Kolbe Cathedral: Notre Dame won both regular-season games against Kolbe. Notre Dame wants that SWC title badly and won't look past the Cougars.
Prediction: Notre Dame.

CCC Tournament semifinals at Bulkeley, Tuesday:
No. 1 Northwest Catholic vs. No. 4 Windsor: The best semifinal-round tournament game in the state's best league this year by far. Northwest features one of the state's best in Kuran Iverson and he will see some of the best pressure defense the Indians have faced all season. I wish I could be in two places at once (I will be at the SCCs). Maybe someone will read this and send me the game film.
Prediction: Windsor

No. 2 Maloney vs. No. 3 Hartford Public: Both CCC matchups have teams facing one another for the first time and combining for just one loss between the two participants. A pretty good nightcap featuring two teams that don't get as much recognition as the two teams left in the other bracket, but both will still be tough outs in March.
Prediction: Maloney

ECC Tournament semifinals
No. 5 Plainfield vs. No. 1 New London: I'd love to be able to make an argument for Plainfield but I just can't.
Prediction: New London rolls

No. 6 Waterford vs. No. 7 Stonington: The winner of the upset portion of the bracket gets to finish second to you-know-who.
Prediction: Stonington