MANCHESTER >> It took until almost the completion of three quarters Friday night for the Notre Dame-West Haven basketball team to grab its first lead.
Against East Catholic, the reigning Central Connecticut Conference champions at a sold-out Saunders gym, the Green Knights hung tough after early-shooting woes to try and pull off the upset of the state’s fifth-ranked team.
Then East Catholic’s senior leader stepped to the forefront. Mark Carbone buried three 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter. The No. 4 seed never trailed again, beating No. 5 seed Notre Dame 67-59 in the Class L state quarterfinals.
“I’m not taking any credit for that, that’s all my teammates,” Carbone said. “If they don’t find me, I don’t hit those shots. … It’s an open three, I should hit that. Senior, big night, big crowd, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Not only did the University of San Diego commit finish with five 3-pointers, Carbone ended up with 25 points, including 10 of 10 from the free-throw line. Six of those free throws came within the final 90 seconds to seal it for the Eagles (24-3).
“It came down to one or two possessions at the end,” Notre Dame coach Jason Shea said. “If we scored or converted there, the outcome might be different. We didn’t, they did and they deserve it (the win).”
East Catholic will now face the winner of No. 1 Windsor and No. 8 Bassick, which will be played Saturday night, in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Milan Lester, another senior for East Catholic, locked up Notre Dame point guard Ben Bagnoli, holding him without a field goal for the game’s first 28 minutes. The Eagles led by as many as six in the final quarter.
“We were able to make enough stops on him and hold him in check just enough to get out of here (with a win),” East Catholic coach Luke Reilly said about Bagnoli. “They have a lot of weapons. They are a very, very good team.”
The Green Knights (18-6) cut the deficit to one (58-57) on Bagnoli’s 3-pointer with 1:39 left. After Carbone and Bagnoli traded two free throws each, then both teams traded turnovers.
Except the end result for Notre Dame’s miscue was Mike McGuirl’s dunk to put East Catholic up 62-59 with a minute remaining.
“Impacting the game when the ball is not in your hands. McGuirl can impact the game in a variety of ways and he is a dynamic, special player,” Reilly said.
Said Carbone: “Mike is a freak of nature athletically. Mike is a big-time player and that was a huge play, never mind big, a huge play.”
The Green Knights didn’t score again.
“That turnover at half court at the end is a big turnover,” Shea said. “Down one, opportunity to take the lead.”
McGuirl was the only other Eagle besides Carbone in double figures with 18 points. Bagnoli finished with 17 points while Tim Dawson and Jalanni White added 16 and 12 points, respectively, for Notre Dame.
“I don’t know if I will ever coach a player who is as enjoyable to watch and be around as Ben has been to the program,” Shea said. “His leadership and work ethic, set a tone for our program going forward. He’s an old-school basketball player.”
The stellar finish offset a horrendous start. Notre Dame missed its first 12 shots and East Catholic shot just 3 of 11 in the opening period. Notre Dame held a 24-13 rebounding edge in the first half.
EAST CATHOLIC 67, NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN 59
Notre Dame 6 13 21 19 – 59
East Catholic 10 12 17 28 – 67
NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN (59)
Ben Bagnoli 3 10-12 17, Connor Raines 3 0-0 6, Chukwudi Dikko 0 0-0 0, Dylan Reynolds 5 1-2 12, Tim Dawson 6 2-2 16, Mike Brooks 3 2-4 8, Kam Matthews 0 0-0 0, Joe Morris 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 15-20 59
EAST CATHOLIC (67)
Mark Carbone 5 10-10 25, Will Pineo 2 4-4 8, Joe Reilly 2 4-4 9, Milan Lester 1 0-0 2, Mike McGuirl 7 3-7 18, Rakesh Tibby 2 1-2 5. Totals: 19 22-27 67
3-point goals: Notre Dame-West Haven 4 (Bagnoli 1, Reynolds 1, Dawson 2); East Catholic 7 (Carbone 5, Reilly 1, McGuirl 1); Fouled out: Notre Dame-West Haven (Brooks, Raines); Records: Notre Dame-West Haven 18-6; East Catholic 24-3. Technical foul: Notre Dame coach Jason Shea.