— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) March 3, 2017
HARTFORD >> If Jamil Hornesby can provide the offensive lift like he did on Thursday night, East Catholic may be even tougher to stop in the Class LL state tournament than opponents hoped for.
Hornesby finished with 17 points, including two crucial free throws with 4.5 seconds left, to give No. 2 seed East Catholic the 67-66 win over top seed Weaver at a near-capacity Babe Allen Field House at Bulkeley High. It’s the second straight CCC crown for East Catholic.
“This is the best conference in the state. It is year in and year out,” senior Mike McGuirl said. “It’s satisfying because it’s my senior year, my last go-around.”
Hornesby, the nephew of Ray Allen, the former UConn star and the NBA’s all-time leader in three-point shots, made one free throw to put the Eagles (23-1), the state’s fourth-ranked team, up 66-63. Then Weaver coach Reggie Hatchett called for timeout to try and ice Hornesby.
“I tried to relax, go to the free-throw line and not think about a thing except for sinking the two,” Hornesby said.
Hornesby calmly made the second to ice it for the defending CCC tournament champions.
“Those free throws are probably the biggest of his life because they iced the game,” East Catholic coach Luke Reilly said. “Against a team like that, if you don’t make those, you are probably going to overtime. … They were really trying to take away Joey (Reilly) and Mike, and when you take somebody way that hard, if you are able to get to the rim a little bit, good things can happen and he really took advantage of that.”
Hatchett was impressed with Hornesby from his days at Bristol Central. “Jamil going to East Catholic wast a lot bigger deal than most people, probably thought. He’s always been a key component to their success,” he said.
The lead changed hands five times in the fourth quarter before McGuirl (18 points) made it one last lead change on on a baseline jumper with 2:30 left, putting the Eagles up 58-57.
Weaver (21-3) stayed close, cutting it to 65-63, then calling for timeout with 21.6 seconds left.
Hatchett gave his team specific instructions: go for the steal, do not foul. Nearly 15 seconds ran off the clock before the Beavers trapped McGuirl near midcourt. Reilly had the presence of mind to call timeout on the opposite side of the court with 6.9 seconds left.
“I alerted the referees that we were not going to foul,” Hatchett said. “Luke was smart enough to call timeout with Mike McGuirl in trouble. We are one of the better trapping teams in the state. I kn knew East would throw a few passes where our guys had a shot at a steal. … I would do the same thing again.”
Then Hornesby was fouled. Jaecee Martin, who had a game-high 28 points, hit a three before the buzzer sounded.
“One of the big goals was to win this championship,” Reilly said. “I’m really proud of the guys with their approach their preparation, their attitude.”
For Weaver, which lost to an in-state team for a first time this season, it was the last CCC tournament game. The Beavers are leaving the league and will be an independent next season.
“We came up short, but we take some positives into the state tournament,” Hatchett said.
EAST CATHOLIC 67, WEAVER 66
East Catholic 15 19 14 19 – 67
Weaver 19 12 15 20 – 66
EAST CATHOLIC (67)
Rakesh Tiggy 2 0-0 4, Joe Reilly 7 2-2 19, Mike McGuirl 6 6-8 18, Jamil Hornesby 6 4-4 17, Will Pineo 1 0-0 2, Matt Venetto 3 0-3 7. Totals: 25 12-17 67
Chaylyn Martin 6 3-4 17, Jaecee Martin 8 10-12 28, Tristan Reid 4 3-4 11, Reggie Tolliver 1 0-0 2, Stefan Melius 1 0-0 2, JaQuan Williams 3 0-0 6. Totals: 23 16-20 66
3-point goals: East Catholic 5 (Reilly 3, Hornesby 1, Venetto 1); Weaver 4 (Martin 2, Martin 2); Records: East Catholic 23-1; Weaver 21-3
— CT Sports Now (@CT_Sports_Now) March 3, 2017