MONROE— It was an emotional day for the Immaculate boys’ basketball team.
Tuesday was the first day of classes at the school since 17-year old Liam Devine was killed in a car crash Friday night. The aspiring sports journalism major attended every basketball game, according to Immaculate principal Mary Maloney.
“The kids have been through a lot this week,” Immaculate coach Nelson Mingachos said. “We lost one of our students in a car accident so today there was a lot going on around the school. It was emotional for them but they found a way.”
After three quarters of evenly played basketball, SWC-leading Immaculate broke away at the end, outscoring Masuk 20-10 in the final quarter for a 56-43 victory.
“It is tragic,” Joey Rios said. “We came together as a group, really dedicated this game to him today.”
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Rios led Immaculate with 25 points, controlled the boards and was a havoc on defense, blocking multiple shots.
“I just tried to do the little things,” Rios said. “Get rebounds, put backs, and setting up the other guys. Let the other guys stick to the outside shooting.”
He was followed by teammate Sean Guiry, who accumulated 18 points as the two combined for 43, matching Masuk’s total.
“Joey is huge for us,” Mingachos said. “Any night, one of our guys can come out and really shine for us. Joey and Guiry are our two big guys down low and we always say get the ball down low and let’s work it out.”
Trailing 13-11 after the first quarter, Immaculate rallied for a lead that was wiped away by a game-tying buzzer beater before halftime.
“I told the kids at halftime: ‘Listen, I know the score is tied right now at 26-26,” Mingachos said. “We still have 16 minutes to play. We went out, warmed up for 16 minutes, so now let’s see what we got in the second half.’”
Immaculate took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter, which kicked off with a 12-3 scoring run in the Mustang’s favor to break away to the 13-point victory.
“This is a tough environment to play in,” Mingachos said. “The gym is big and Masuk plays very well. They played hard, they took it to us but we were able to take control of the game and take the lead late.”
Immaculate (9-1) increased its separation over Masuk (7-3) atop the SWC standings and has now won nine consecutive games since dropping the season opener to Danbury.
Masuk has now dropped two games in a row after a 62-59 loss to Weston last Thursday and will look to get back on track against Bunnell on Thursday.