HAMDEN — Chuck Clemons was the top scorer for the St. Luke’s boys basketball team Tuesday afternoon, but it was a play on the other end of the floor that had the biggest impact on the game’s outcome.
Clemons stole an inbounds pass in the final seconds of what ended up being a 72-68 victory for St. Luke’s over Hamden Hall at the Beckerman Athletic Center.
“I wasn’t guarding anybody. I was just watching the ball,” Clemons said. “I saw No. 15 (Jackson Benigni) cut in front of me. It was kind of a weak pass, so I just got in front of it.”
Said St. Luke’s coach Tony Newsom: “He has a great instinct for the game, it was a great play by him.”
Clemons’ heroics were set up by Gavin Greene’s game-winning putback with 4 seconds left. St. Luke’s had three tries at it, Greene all alone for the basket on the third attempt.
After Clemons (16 points) was fouled with 1.5 seconds left, the Hornets (12-2) had to foul again to get St. Luke’s into the bonus. Greene (12) was fouled with under a second left and sealed it with both free throws.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) January 23, 2019
“Me and Jah’ki (Washington) were both trying to get to the ball, he boxed out his man (and it) let me have (a) wide open layup to tip it in,” Greene said describing the final basket. “We get in the gym, we shoot free throws all the time, so it’s just like practice.”
It was a battle of undefeated teams in the Fairchester Athletic Association. Hamden Hall is the defending regular-season and tournament champion.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) January 22, 2019
“I think they played with more emotion and energy. It’s not going to be fun the next couple of days,” Hamden Hall coach Sean Doherty said. “They had more team energy than we did the last 5 minutes of the game. I didn’t see that ‘Let’s go get this’ mentality that we normally have.”
Neither Clemons nor Greene were at St. Luke’s last year. Clemons, son of the former Harding coach Charles Clemons, was a member of the CIAC Division I state champion Notre Dame-Fairfield, but spent most of the season injured. Greene transferred in from St. Joseph.
Add inWashington, a freshman who threw down three impressive dunks en route to 15 points, and Christian Jones (12 points) and St. Luke’s has one very formidable group.
A group that fought back from down seven points in the second half to make it a back-and-forth contest down the stretch. The lead changed hands seven times in a 4-minute stretch.
Byron Breland III (21 points, 13 rebounds) made a free throw with 32.5 seconds left to tie the game at 68 for Hamden Hall. Teammate Christian Adams also posted a double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds).
The Hornets’ full-court pressure defense forced 18 turnovers to help build them their advantage. But they couldn’t put St. Luke’s away.
“We were prepared for a dogfight,” Greene said.
The rematch is Feb. 2 at 2 p.m. in New Canaan.
“I wish we could play them again tomorrow,” Doherty said. “We will see how it goes next time we play them at their place. They are young and hungry. Our guys had been like that throughout the year.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Chuck Clemons: Transfer from Notre Dame-Fairfield scored a team-high 16 points, then stole the inbounds pass in the final seconds to seal the victory over Hamden Hall.
“Credit to our guys. They kept fighting and believing in what we were doing and kind of stayed the course,” St. Luke’s coach Tony Newsom said.