WATERBURY — Top-seeded and top-ranked Sacred Heart tucked away its fifth consecutive NVL Tournament Championship with a 75-54 win over No. 3 Torrington Wednesday night at Wilby High School.
“It’s the defense,” said Sacred Heart coach Jon Carroll, maintaining that his Hearts’ offense “can be pretty good, but the defense is the consistent part of our game.”
Torrington coach Eric Gamari couldn’t agree more.
“They cover us better than anybody we’ve faced this year,” said Gamari, whose team pelted Crosby with 13 3-pointers in Monday’s semifinal, but banked just three on Wednesday.
Even the Heart’s Jamaal Waters, sharing game scoring honors with Torrington’s Tyreek Davis at 23 apiece, buys into Carroll’s philosophy.
“I like defense best,” said Waters, who heads for Southern Connecticut State University next year. “I like picking up a guy full court and playing him all the way down to see if I can pick the ball.”
The Red Raiders stood up well to the pressure, along with the constant threat of blocked shots from 6-foot-11 sophomore center Connor Tierney.
Tierney blocked three first quarter shots under the basket, but the real opening story was a warp-speed duel between Waters and Davis. Davis had eight of Torrington’s 12 points for the period. Waters had all but two of Sacred Hearts’ 13.
The Hearts pulled away in the second quarter when their scoring spread out.
“We were clanging it off the rim from outside,” Carroll said. “I said, ‘Let’s get the ball in where the men play.’”
Specifically, that’s where Sacred Heart’s really big men play.
While Davis kept up his scoring assault with another 11 points, including a pair of improbable threes, the Hearts moved inside with major help from 6-5 Omar Rowe; 6-7 Waters; Tierney and 6-5 Nate Tabor (12 points).
Lorenzo Washington (14 points) and Tabor each hit a 3.
Nick Balducci’s 3 was the last of the night for the Raiders. Sacred Heart led 39-26 at the half.
With Davis shutting down from fatigue and that blanket Heart defense by the third quarter, the Hearts were well on their way to their 105th straight NVL win.
“We just had to stay focused,” said Waters. “We knew (Torrington) was a good team.”
“I’m proud of my guys,” Gamari said. “We fought.”