HARTFORD — The East Catholic boys basketball team is as good as advertised, while Hillhouse has plenty of work to do, especially on the offensive end.
East Catholic, the No. 2 team in the Register/GameTimeCT preseason boys basketball poll rolled to a 67-46 victory over Hillhouse in the GHPA ‘Spirit of Doc’ Classic at Ogrodnik Court Saturday on the campus of Trinity College.
“I think the score wasn’t honest to the game. We hit some shots late,” Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton said. “We are finding out who we are and who we’re not, a one-man band. We have to play team ball with defense first. I think we will get better as the season goes on.”
The Eagles (1-0) led 33-11 at halftime — and Dalgorys Flete had to score the last two baskets of the half for the Academics (0-1) to be even that close.
An 18-6 run in the third quarter opened up a 51-17 edge for the Eagles. They led by 30 (53-23) through the completion of three quarters, forcing 16 turnovers.
“With this group make it about us and how we perform, for first night out in a big atmosphere like this, it’s a thrill for the kids for them to perform at a high level. I’m happy for them,” East Catholic coach Luke Reilly said.
Matt Knowling, the game’s Most Valuable Player, finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds for the Eagles. Jaylin Hunter, a transfer from Nebraska, added 20.
“Be ready when your opportunity comes. Those two guys were ready and they had awesome nights tonight,” Reilly said.
These teams have only met during the postseason, all won by the Academics. Hillhouse eliminated East Catholic in the 2017 Class LL state semifinals. Before that, Hillhouse beat East Catholic in back-to-back state championship finals in 2006 and 2007.
But that was all ancient history after how East Catholic turned the anticipated game into a rout in the first quarter. The Eagles led 5-4, then scored the final 13 points of the quarter to go up 18-4. Hunter had eight points in the period while Cincere Lash had the four for Hillhouse.
Sutton told his players afterwards about another December blowout three years ago — in neutral setting just like Saturday — against Weaver. Hillhouse went on to beat Weaver in the Class LL state final three months later.
“We lost by the same exact amount of points,” Sutton said, referring to that game. “We lost the same way. We have a chance to come back and make good on the things we didn’t capitalize on tonight. It’s behind us now.”
No. 1 Sacred Heart 73, Naugatuck 51
Nate Tabor finished with 21 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and five steals for the state’s top-ranked team in a Naugatuck Valley League contest.
Tabor, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, is among the nation’s top recruits. Jamaal Waters, a transfer from Cheshire Academy, finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds to earn game MVP laurels.
“That’s nothing man,” Tabor responded when asked about the pressure of being preseason No. 1. “I’m going to bring my team to where we want to go. We are going to take that ring this year, I promise you that.”
Tabor is referring to the Division I state championship. The Hearts lost to Notre Dame-Fairfield in last season’s final.
Sacred Heart (2-0) looked sluggish in the opening quarter but took the game over with a 16-3 run in the second period. The Hearts forced the Greyhounds (1-1) into 2-of-14 shooting in the quarter.
Tabor scored the first six points for the Hearts and finished the half with 12, along with five rebounds and three assists. Connor Tierney, the Hearts’ 7-foot sophomore center, blocked six shots in the opening half, which Sacred Heart led 37-19.Tierney finished with eight points, six rebounds and eight blocked shots.
Hartford Public 52, Weaver 50
Jaquan King’s layup with 7 seconds left helped him earn game MVP honors as Hartford Public came from behind to win a matchup of former Central Connecticut Conference rivals.
Elijah Drummond came up with a steal and fired an outlet pass to King, who was all alone at the other end for the easy basket. Weaver’s Tristan Reid was fouled with 0.6 seconds left, but missed the front end of a one-and-one situation.
King finished with 14 points and five rebounds and Josh Colon added 11 for Public (1-0).
Glastonbury 69, Bloomfield 64
Aaron Latham finished with 30 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals to earn co-MVP honors for Glastonbury in its CCC matchup.
The other co-MVP for the Tomahawks (1-0) was Jack Shea, who finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Alfonzo Stokes led the Warhawks (0-1) with 23 points.
Prince Tech 68, St. Bernard 55
Tyshawn Jackson led the way with 23 points to earn game MVP laurels for Prince Tech (2-0) in the opening game, a non-conference affair.