Joe Morelli / Hearst Connecticut Media Sacred Heart’s Lorenzo Washington gets worked on by the trainer during the Hearts’ win over Crosby.
WATERBURY – It wasn’t pretty whatsoever. It was a grind, as Sacred Heart coach Jon Carroll put it, a grind to get another victory against another Naugatuck Valley League opponent.
OK, it does sound like a broken record when the same team wins all the time, and Sacred Heart has now done it 97 consecutive times to NVL opponents, the latest a 64-58 slugfest at the Palace Friday night against Crosby.
But as the old saying goes, they ask how, they ask how many. And for the No. 1 team in the GameTime CT Top 10 poll, it’s just another game to get ready for March and both the NVL and the CIAC Division I state tournaments.
“These guys showed a lot of character, a lot of resolve,” Carroll said.
What helped – or hurt, depending on your perspective – for Sacred Heart was taking the floor without its best player.
Junior swingman Nate Tabor, one of the top players in the country who verbally committed to St. John’s earlier this month, missed the game due to a school disciplinary issue, according to Carroll.
The Hearts (14-1) missed him on the floor. The play on both sides was disjointed at best for most of the first half and third quarter with a slew of turnovers by both sides. Sacred Heart committed 14 turnovers thru three quarters while Crosby totaled 18.
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“It’s not our normal sgame where we play in the 80s, maybe the 90s,” Carroll said. “This was a little clunky for us. I think some of that has to do that we were two pretty good defensive teams, taking tough, contested shots and that translated into poor shooting.”
The chance was there for Crosby (8-4) to pull the upset and stop the streak. It would have seemed fitting on a night where head coach Nick Augelli was acknowledged before the game for 50 years of coaching at the school – on the court named in his honor.
Forty of those years as the head coach of the Bulldogs totaling 683 wins – the active leader and second all-time behind Vito Montelli from St. Joseph.
“We played hard. I told the team after the game I was happy with te way they played, but thought they made some mental mistakes down the stretch,” Augelli said.
The Bulldogs led for most of the second and third quarters, but never by more than four. No one led by double digits at all.
“We started trapping them. We couldn’t lay back in a zone,” Augelli said. “We had to come out and do some trapping and some gambling. This was a good test for us against a good team.”
The Hearts found away, despite Crosby entering the bonus with 2:40 left in the third quarter, despite Tabor not being on the floor. Only five players scored for the Hearts, four of them in double figures.
You expect 17 points and eight rebounds from Jamaal Waters. You expect Connor Tierney, the sophomore 7-footer, to grab 10 rebounds and alter shots. You don’t expect him to have a team-high 19 points.
But that’s what Tierney did, including two 3-point shots in the fourth quarter, the last one with 1:12 left to put the Hearts up 60-53. Those were the only two 3-pointers Sacred Heart made in the game.
Tierney finished with a game-high 19 points.
“I’ve worked on things specifically things people wouldn’t expect me to do,” Tierney said. “As a team we came together and we got the job done.”
Said Carroll: “The rotation on the shot is pure, Traditionally, you don’t really want your 7-footer out there at 20 feet jacking it up. The reality is, he was open…. We needed every one of those points tonight. He came up big in a lot of different phases of the game.”
Tyler Spears made it interesting for Crosby, stealing consecutive inbounds passes, getting three points out of it to help the Bulldogs pull within 60-58. But Crosby drew no closer.
“We don’t talk about the number (97 straight), but I’m sure the kids are aware, obviously,” Carroll said. “It’s a testament to these guys who carry that target with them and it’s a testament to the guys who came before them, they are all connected that way.”
SACRED HEART 64, CROSBY 58
SACRED HEART (64)
Omar Rowe 3 4-4 10, Connor Tierney 8 1-2 19, Caleb Sampson 4 0-0 8, Jamaal Waters 7 3-4 17, Lorenzo Washington 4 2-3 10, Steve Alseph 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 10-13 64.
Kerwin Prince 6 2-5 14, Rahmel Reid 3 0-1 8, Tyler Spears 7 5-8 22, Justin Davis 5 1-2 14, Jordan Santos 0 0-0 0, Shaquille Barnaby 0 0-0 0, Andre Pierre 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 8-16 58.
SHEART 12 16 10 26 – 64
CROSBY 12 14 13 19 – 58
3-pointers: Sacred Heart 2 (Tierney 2) Crosby 8 (Spears 3, Davis 3, Rahmel 2). Records: