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 9, 2012

Down to the semifinals

Career has returned to the state semifinals with an impressive 60-53 win over Trinity Catholic. It was a rematch of last year's Class M final, won by Trinity.
But that was never truly a motivating factor Friday, according to head coach Larry Kelley. Never discussed. Didn't matter: Career played some serious zone defense, with a some full-court pressure mixed in, to take down a talented team in Trinity but also a team that got into serious foul trouble.
Center Pascal Chukwu, who was a defensive presence in last year's final as a freshman, fouled out with just six points. He spent half the game on the bench and Career attacked the basket. Jason Boswell, the Division I stud who transferred from St. Patrick, scored about as quiet a 17 points as you can.
Trinity was able to hand in, but never could wrestle the lead from Career, which will now take on Wilby in the semifinals likely at CCSU Tuesday.
Wilby started off great, struggled in the second half of the season and didn't even reach the finals of the NVL tournament. But Wilby had a very impressive win over Bassick in the quarterfinals. Read Joe Palladino of the Waterbury Republican-American's account of the game.
Wilby is going to come right at Career. How will the Panthers handle them defensively? It should be al all-out battle to determine who gets to the Mohegan Sun next weekend.

The other area schools were eliminated in L: Branford at Farmington and Stratford at Northwest Catholic despite 42 points from Bernard Brantley. And he's back for Stratford next season. The Farmington-NWC game should go to the Floyd Little Athletic Center. Those are the two sites used for Class LL and L and Career has played several home games at Floyd Little, so the Panthers can't play there.

But after two quarterfinal-round home games were made neutral site contests for Monday (see my earlier posts from Friday), the Career game just might be going elsewhere.

Sunday championships?

The CIAC and the Mohegan Sun Arena renewed for the Sun to host the boys and girls basketball tournament finals for just one year last off-season. This is the fourth year of having the finals in Uncasville - and it could be the last.
According to boys basketball tournament director Bob Cecchini, the Sun management asked to play the finals on Saturday and Sunday rather than Friday and Saturday. That is sure to be brought up again before any kind of contract is renewed.
"It was too short a time period (to approve for this season)," Cecchini said. "I don't know if the (CIAC) Board of Controls or our superintendents will support that decision (to play on a Sunday)."
Cecchini would not disclose specific plans but did say he had started looking at other sites just in case the CIAC does not return to the Mohegan Sun. Last year, when the winter snowstorms came one after another, the CIAC allowed schools needing to make up several regular-season contests to play on Sundays. And state finals have been moved to Sunday before when the tournament was held at Central Connecticut State due to inclement weather.
This is one to keep an eye on.

Here is the tournament schedule for next weekend:

Friday, March 16: 6 and 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 17: 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 6:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.


Time to go back to neutral sites for quarterfinals

Two Class LL quarterfinal-round games Monday have been moved from home to neutral sites.

The first, No. 5 seed New London at No. 4 Windsor, Is now at Central Connecticut State University. That decision was made by the CIAC prior to the second-round games being played. The reason? CCSU is obviously a much bigger venue and fans would get shut out of Windsor, which holds less than 1,000 people.

According to Bob Cecchini, the CIAC tournament director, Windsor initiated the process because the school was concerned about an overflow crowd.

The CIAC decided on Friday to move the matchup of FCIAC teams, No. 9 Ridgefield at No. 1 St. Joseph, to Fairfield Warde High.

Granted, Warde is a bigger venue (920 capacity for St. Joseph, 1,661 for Warde) but this is a little more puzzling. If you want to move it, why not go to a college facility? I’m sure Sacred Heart University could be made available.

Naturally, St. Joseph coach Vito Montelli is up in arms about it. Not only did six seniors play their final home game Thursday against Cheshire, but now they lose their home-court advantage over someone they played already. The Cadets has every right to be upset. They had no say in the matter.

But although Ridgefield coach Carl Charles called Cecchini Thursday night to make the same plea about crowd concerns, Cecchini insisted that he already had thought about moving that game if need be before Thursday. The CIAC tournament packet states that Cecchini has the right to move quarterfinal-round home games if need be.

“I talked to a couple of people on the basketball committee and we decided to move the game,” Cecchini said. I’ve spoken with Vito and (St. Joseph athletic director) Jim Olayos. I talked to several parents. They are all upset with me but I felt we had to do it. I don’t want people to get locked out. Fairfield Warde has a great reputation (for hosting big games) so that was a natural. I know I’m the bad guy but for the best interest of high school basketball in the state of Connecticut I made the right decision.”

Look, I’m all for bigger venues so fans don’t get shut out. The CIAC executive hasn’t forgotten what happened at Sheehan back in 2005, when near-riots erupted outside Sheehan High because fans with paid tickets got shut out of the Crosby-Xavier Division I semifinal. That is why the Class LL and L semifinals are now held at CCSU and the Floyd Little Athletic Center, respectively.

That’s what makes the move to quarterfinal-round home sites two years ago very puzzling. It was done because there are not enough sites to go around. Cecchini said the committee will revisit this and maybe go back to neutral sites.

They should. If need be, spend the money for venues like Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, since new management there has expressed interest in getting back involved with high school athletics.

It’s easy for me to say because it is not my money. But it’s also not right to have to have some games at home, others at neutral sites. You have to be consistent. And in this case, the CIAC was not.

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Class M title game rematch

Tonight will be the Class M state finals rematch from a year ago, Career vs. Trinity Catholic, this time in the Class L quarterfinals at Wilbur Cross High at 6.

Trinity was able to dominate in the fourth quarter behind center Pascal Chidiebere Chukwu, guard Schradac Casimir and the rest of the Crusaders. Check out our story from last year's final at the Mohegan Sun.

Trinity has added transfer Jason Boswell from St. Patrick's. But the Crusaders have had some mysterious losses (Greenwich comes to mind) and were beaten by Bassick in the FCIAC tournament final.

Career has had just a pair of 1-point losses to Hillhouse. The Panthers avenged those losses in the SCC tournament final and then rallied from an 18-point, third-quarter deficit to beat Elm City rival Wilbur Cross in the second round. If the Panthers fall that far behind against Trinity, they won't come back this time.

But last year should provide ample motivation for Treyvon Moore, Kenny Armstead and the rest of the team. The Panthers are a very good defensive team in full-court pressure and their active matchup zone.
When you move up in division, as both these teams did and should have, these are the great matchups you get at this point of the tournament. And it should go down to the wire.

Get to Cross early, folks.

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Quarterfinal site changes

Two Class LL state tournament games have already been moved to neutral sites for Monday.

The titanic New London-Windsor matchup, featuring the top 2 teams in the current Register Top 10 poll, will now be played at Central Connecticut State University at 7 p.m. instead of a smaller Windsor High. According to the Hartford Courant, the CIAC had pre-determined this matchup on Wednesday. CCSU used to host the finals before it was renovated with less seating capacity several years ago.

And the CIAC decided Friday morning to move the St. Joseph-Ridgefield game from St. Joseph to Fairfield Warde for the same reason: Warde has more seating.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Seeding holds to form

The higher seeds all advanced into Friday's quarterfinals in the Class L and S divisions except for one: No. 25 Stratford, winning at No. 9 Avon 57-52. Now the Red Devils, the champion in this class two years ago, gets to travel to West Hartford to face top-seeded Northwest Catholic.
Best of luck will need it against Kuran Iverson.
Branford beat Berlin 31-29...yes advance to play at Farmington in the quarterfinals. The only other SCC team left in Class L is Career, which overcame an 18-point deficit - in less than a quarter - to beat fellow New Haven school Wilbur Cross 53-48. It was the third time Career had beaten Cross this season,
As awesome as Cross played in the second quarter - holding the state's fifth-ranked team to three points - Career looked even better in the third quarter with a 20-2 run to tie the game. Then it was a high-drama fourth quarter with Career's Treyvon Moore having to block a three-point shot in order make sure Career moved on.
Now the Panthers get Trinity Catholic in a rematch of last year's Class M final, won by Trinity. The Crusaders feature Schradac Casimir, Jason Boswell and 7-1 center Pascal Chukwu, who was a difference maker as a freshman in last year's final. This game is a tossup.

All the higher seeds won convincingly in Class S except Coginchaug, which needed a 3-point play with 0.9 seconds left to beat Shoreline Conference rival Haddam-Killingworth 45-44. Coginchaug now gets Khalil Dukes and Capital Prep in Hartford.

SCC fares well again

I kept hearing how the SCC and basketball as a whole was down this year. Yet the Southern Connecticut Conference teams keep faring well in the opening round of the tournament.
Cheshire hammered Stamford 72-52 in Class LL. The Rams' reward? Traveling to Trumbull to face top-ranked St. Joseph, which pulled away from another SCC team, Shelton, 59-38.
Hamden was like Jekyll and Hyde in the fourth quarter against Glastonbury. The Green Dragons held Glastonbury scoreless for almost 6 minutes in the fourth quarter to build a double-digit lead, only to see the Tomahawks score 18 points in the final 2:26, almost forcing overtime before falling 74-71. Fairfield Prep (63-58) and Hillhouse (72-37) advanced past Norwalk and Conard, respectively.
Two other SCC teams fell in the LL opening round Tuesday: Xavier to New London (92-77) and Amity to Simsbury (48-46). A surprise in the bracket was No. 7 Crosby falling to No. 26 Trumbull 58-52.
Another SCC team, Foran, advanced past O'Brien Tech 67-43. The only other surprise in that division was No. 23 Bacon Academy ousting No. 10 Stonington 61-56.

So if you are keeping score at home, the SCC went 10-4 in the opening round of the tournament.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Three cheers for the area teams

Eight area teams won on the opening night of the state tournament.
Hand won at the buzzer over RHAM in Hebron. Now the Tigers get top-seeded Northwest Catholic.
No. 25 Stratford won at No. 8 Middletown rather easily, 66-57. That's two CCC teams down. Stratford plays at Avon next.
No. 20 North Haven won at No. 13 Bristol Eastern 55-53. The Indians now travel to Farmington on Wednesday. The fourth-seeded Indians gave the CCC a win, eliminating Lyman Hall 54-43.
No. 2 Career and No. 5 Branford held serve at home over Bristol Central (another CCC school) and Woodstock Academy, respectively. Branford will host - you guessed it - a CCC foe, Berlin, in the second round Wednesday while Career will have to face Wilbur Cross a third time at the Floyd Little Athletic Center at 6. Cross, The No. 15 seed, won at Bunnell 83-76 in a wild game that Cross led the entire way. Career won both regular-season matchups.

In Class S, congratulations to Amistad Academy for winning its first state tournament game, eliminating No. 19 Housatonic Regional 63-53. Now No. 14 Amistad plays at No. 3 Capital Prep on Wednesday.
No. 11 Haddam-Killingworth beat No. 22 East Windsor 64-37 and gets to face Coginchaug for a third time. The game will be Wednesday in Durham.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

State tournament preview

The latest poll is out.

Check out 10 things to look for and five players to watch during the tournament.

And here are your tournament predictions on who might be playing in the final at Mohegan Sun in two weeks.