East Catholic coach Luke Reilly remembers the aftermath of the Eagles’ Senior Night vividly.
East Catholic lost to Weaver 76-74, their second loss to the Beavers this season. He remembered the postgame speech.
“After that loss, we knew we had one month left in the season, and that night we said, ‘A month from tomorrow, we are going to be playing for the state championship. Let’s get better.’ We got a lot better.”
Naturally, a lot of teams make those proclamations at the start of the state tournament. East Catholic fulfilled it, winning the Class M division, the school’s first state title since 1972.
“It’s your job as a coach to put your guys in the best possible shape to win,” Reilly said. “So we felt we had the ability to make it this far. We also understood you have to have the right matchups and have the planets line up a little bit, but also make your own luck.”
Reilly also believed he would see Weaver again in the final. The Beavers won the CCC title and nine straight games before reaching the final. Then East Catholic drilled the Beavers 80-54.
Reilly won a state championship as a player for his dad, Joe, at South Catholic in 1991.
“The guys I was hugging out there (at the Mohegan Sun Arena following the M final) are guys I played with,” Reilly said. “The relationships and memories you create can last a lifetime.”
East Catholic made it to the Division I and Class LL state final in consecutive years — 2006 and 2007 — but lost to Hillhouse both times.
“We were a little outmatched and we lost,” Reilly said. “We hoped this time it was in the cards, and thank God it was.”