UNCASVILLE >> Basketball games sometimes actually do turn into a battle of wills. On Sunday, two of Connecticut’s all-time city boys’ teams traded blows at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Put a state championship as the grand prize and that just adds another element to the heavyweight fight that took place. And when it comes to boys’ basketball heavyweights in Connecticut, one team still stands far and above all the rest.
Hillhouse prevailed in double overtime 94-83 over Weaver to claim the Class LL state championship Sunday evening. It’s CIAC state title No. 23 for the Academics (25-3).
“For me, I’ve been here as an assistant twice, been here as head coach twice, pretty much what we expect,” Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton said. “But these kids weren’t supposed to win this championship, not supposed to be here. You don’t take a program and throw it together the way we did and ask those sophomores to carry the load the way they did. They earned it and they deserve it.”
There were exactly 103 free throws taken in the 40-minute title slugfest, 66 of them taken by the Academics. They made 49. Weaver went 23 of 37 from the stripe.
But the two biggest free throws came off the fingertips of Hillhouse sophomore Byron Breland. The two he made with 7.6 seconds left in overtime ended up sending the game to a second extra session after the Beavers (23-4) missed a desperation 3-point attempt.
“We’ve grown and developed and now we are champions,” Breland said.
Weaver guard KeAndre Fair, who started in his fourth state final Sunday, fouled out on Breland’s trip to the line, finishing with 24 points and over 2,000 for his career. With the Martin brothers, Chaylyn and Jaecee, having already fouled out, Weaver was out of experienced ballhandlers for double overtime once Breland made thise two crucial free throws.
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“I believed in my boy Tre (Breland). He got it done at the free-throw line,” Hillhouse junior guard Joey Kasperzyk said.
Kasperzyk (game-high 26 points), Christian Adams and Tyler Douglas had all fouled out for Hillhouse. But the Academics still had enough depth and experience in the backcourt with Jalil Wilkerson, Davon Warner and Chauness Johnson.
Along with Breland, Hillhouse brought the full-court pressure and Weaver couldn’t get the ball over midcourt, let alone score.
The end result was Hillhouse scoring the first 12 points in overtime to begin the coronation for Connecticut most decorated champion.
“The guys at the end of their bench were better than the guys at the end of mine. That the reason why they ran away with it like they did,” Weaver coach Reggie Hatchett said. “After KeAndre fouled out, basically every guy I had was a JV level ballhandler and they exploited that.”
Weaver trailed the entire game – until Chaylyn Martin’s layup put the Beavers up 54-52 with 3:09 remaining in regulation. The game was tied three more times in regulation, the last with 6.2 seconds left on a pair of free throws from Fair.
Once Martin fouled out in overtime, the Academics double- and triple-teamed Fair, forcing a pair of turnovers before he fouled out.
“We made some mental errors that we shouldn’t have made that ended up costing us. I’m very proud of the way we fought,” Hatchett said.
It’s Hillhouse’s first title since beating Fairfield Prep at the Sun in 2013. The Academics are now 2-2 in finals appearances at Mohegan.
“Everyone thought we were going to lose. We proved the whole entire state wrong,” Breland said.
Weaver, which was the only school to move up and play in the Class LL division, is 1-3 in its four straight appearances, two in Class M and another in S.
Weaver also beat Hillhouse back in December 77-55. But this proved to be a much-improved group of Academics almost three months later. And the core group of Breland, Adams and Kasperzyk all return next season.
“With the core group back, everyone will expect us to be here again next year, but you can never guarantee it,” Sutton said. “But we will relish this.”
HILLHOUSE 94, WEAVER 83
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Weaver 12 9 18 23 11 10 -83
Hillhouse 14 17 13 18 11 21 – 94
WEAVER (83) Jaecee Martin 5 1-3 11, Chaylyn Martin 2 4-6 8, KeAndre Fair 6 10-15 24, Jaquan Williams 3 0-3 6, Andre Lyons 1 4-5 6, Rakim George 1 2-2 4, Tyler Chambers 2 0-0 5, Jabrii Leary 1 0-0 2, Julian Manning 1 2-2 4, Alexis Rodriguez 2 0-0 5, Marques Williams-Bey 2 0-0 4, Willie James 2 0-0 4. Totals: 28 23-36 83
HILLHOUSE (94) Joey Kasperzyk 6 12-14 26, Tyler Douglas 2 1-1 5, Christian Adams 1 8-8 11, Tyler Williams 2 2-4 6, Byron Breland 5 13-18 23, Justin Gordeneer 0 1-2 1, Davon Warner 1 0-0 2, Jalil Wilkerson 2 11-17 15, Anthony Crenshaw 1 0-0 2, Chauness Johnson 1 1-2 3. Totals: 21 49-66 94
3-point goals: Weaver 4 (Fair 2, Chambers 1, Rodriguez 1); Hillhouse 3 (Kasperzyk 2, Adams 1); Fouled out: Weaver (J. Martin, C. Martin, Fair, James); Hillhouse (Kasperzyk, Douglas, Adams.);
Records: Weaver 23-4; Hillhouse 25-3