Cool Hand Luke
Storyline: East Catholic has the fearsome front line, led by Matt Veretto and Trey Hall, a fine shooting guard in Joey Reilly, a dependable point guard in Jamil Hornesby and one of the state’s best bench coaches in Luke Reilly, who already owns two state championships and four trips to the finals to his credit. Division I is loaded with great teams, none better than East Catholic. No one has figured out how to beat the Eagles and if they have the lead, the four corners’ set is coming.
You should know: East Catholic has never won a state title in the highest division.
The Bourne Ultimatum
Storyline: Undefeated team No. 2, Notre Dame-Fairfield, repeated as South-West Conference champion. Noreaga Davis and Josh Reaves both crash the boards and command attention on the offensive end. Then there is the closer, point guard Tyler Bourne, who is as deadly with the pullup jump shot as he is going coast to coast.
You should know: Notre Dame is attempting to play in its fourth straight championship final. The Lancers have never won a title.
No vacancies at Hampton Inn
Storyline: Undefeated team No. 3, East Hampton, ran roughshod through the Shoreline Conference and claimed its first league tournament title over Cromwell. The Bellringers returned virtually everyone from last year’s team that lost to Westbrook in the Shoreline final. That includes guard Tom Close, this season’s Shoreline Player of the Year. They are the clear favorite in Division V.
You should know: East Hampton’s last trip to a state final came in 1952, losing to Simsbury.
Four years and counting
Storyline: Sacred Heart has the fearsome twosome in Isiah Gaiter and Raheem Solomon, who missed last year’s run to the Class L state championship with a knee injury. As the Hearts attempt to win a fifth straight state title, they have currently won 84 straight games against the Naugatuck Valley League and 104 against CIAC competition. Despite the criticism they received for winning two Class S titles and another in Class M, the numbers are quite impressive.
You should know: Sacred Heart’s last loss in the state was to Crosby in the 2014 NVL tournament final.
Circling the wagons
Storyline: After a rough mid-season stretch where it lost five games, Hillhouse won 10 of 11 heading into the SCC tournament final. The Academics lost four starters off back-to-back Class LL state championship teams, but do own wins over Division I teams Hamden, Windsor, Weaver and Fairfield Prep, which the Academics host Monday. A three-peat is an extremely tall order, but you know titles is what they play for at 480 Sherman Parkway in the Elm City.
You should know: Hillhouse has a CIAC record 24 state championships.
Storyline: Danbury has been the best team in the FCIAC the past three seasons overall. It advanced to the Class LL state semifinals in 2016 and the quarterfinals last year, knocking off top seed Notre Dame-West Haven in the second round. Denali Burton and Jordon Brown combined for 51 points in the Hatters’ victory over Trumbull to win the FCIAC tournament title. The FCIAC may have been down the past few years, but teams would be unwise to overlook Danbury.
You should know: The FCIAC title was the Hatters’ first since 1992.
Enter the Dragons
Storyline: Hamden has always played in the CIAC’s highest division but it’s been quite some time where it has been a serious contender. Behind Jaylen Ricks, Victor Rosario and Ronnie Ellis, the Green Dragons’ offense can shift into high gear very quickly. They finally beat their nemesis Hillhouse in the SCC tournament final to capture their first SCC championship. Now Hamden gets to try and make a run in Division I as the No. 6 seed.
You should know: Hamden has never reached a state final.
Hear Me Roar
Storyline: You can certainly make the argument that no team played a better schedule than Bassick. Life as an independent school isn’t easy, but the Lions loaded up against East Catholic, Holy Cross, Hamden, Wilbur Cross, Weaver, Harding and Ridgefield, only losing to East Catholic. Qualon Wilkes leads a very quick, very resilient group of Lions itching to prove they are No. 1.
You should know: Bassick’s only two state championships came in 1940 and 1989.
Cougars on the Prowl
Storyline: One of the state’s best turnarounds belongs to Kolbe Cathedral. The Cougars showed their return to prominence during the first week of the season when they silenced Trinity Catholic, a preseason top 10 team. They ended up finishing third in the South-West Conference under John Pfohl, who returned after a long layoff from coaching. Kolbe went 0-20 three seasons ago and 1-19 last year. That helped Kolbe win its appeal from the CIAC to drop from Division III to IV. Now all eyes will be on the Cougars, the clear favorite in that division.
You should know: Kolbe’s last state championship came in 2004.
Storyline: Guilford knew it would have some success this season with four seniors returning to the starting lineup. The Indians shared the SCC Hammonasset Division title and reached the league tournament semifinals for the first time since 2003. Now as the top seed in Division III, Guilford is hoping to make a deep run.
You should know: Guilford has never played in a state final.