WINDSOR — Two weeks ago, the East Catholic boys basketball team had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to knock off Bassick, a top-five ranked team in the state.
On Friday, in another hostile, sold-out environment vs. another top-five team, the Eagles didn’t need a comeback in the final quarter. They simply put on a clinic from beginning to end.
Second-ranked East Catholic drilled No. 5-ranked Windsor 74-52 at Coach Smith Court.
“We have trust in one another, the sign of a good team,” East Catholic coach Luke Reilly said. “We all have a common goal and everyone is willing to sacrifice to get there.”
With a win against Manchester Saturday night, East Catholic (18-0) should clinch the top seed in the CCC tournament beginning next Thursday. This was the first conference loss for Windsor (15-3).
— Elliott Polakoff (@ElliottPolakoff) February 16, 2019
“This is one of our worst games of the year,” Windsor coach Ken Smith said. “The better team won tonight.”
On Feb. 1, East Catholic rallied to win at then-No. 3 Bassick in what was a battle of undefeated teams. The Eagles have shown resiliency on the road on three consecutive Fridays — with a 27-point win at East Hartford sandwiched in between — to keep its regular-season winning streak alive. It now stands at 56 games.
“They have a lot of great weapons and you know they will make shots,” Reilly said of Windsor. “You have to make sure they don’t really heat up to the point where it’s changing the game too dramatically.”
The Eagles were able to elude the Warriors’ half-court trap with crisp passes. East Catholic did not commit a turnover in the third quarter.
“We can battle adversity and loud crowds,” said Hunter, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “We know they will make their runs but I think if we stay poised like we did tonight, we will have results like this.”
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) February 16, 2019
Said Matt Knowling: “We always say we are two passes away from a layup when they trap.”
A 10-0 run run in the second quarter gave East Catholic the lead for good at 24-19. East’s edge was 30-22 at halftime.
Windsor settled for long 3-point shots and didn’t go to the glass. East Catholic outrebounded Windsor by 14 (29-15) in the first half.
“We just didn’t play together and make good decisions on offense I think the game was too big for our kids,” Smith said. “They play together as a team, and that is the bottom line.”
Then the Eagles blew it open in the third, leading by 20 after those 8 minutes were up (54-34). Knowling finished with a double-double (16 points, 18 rebounds).
“A lot of preparation. Coach Reilly put in a great game plan,” Knowling said. “We watched a lot of film. We scouted them great. Our focus was to rebound the ball, hold them to one shot and contain them. … We have a hungry group of guys.”
Amir Spears scored 10 points in the first quarter for Windsor, but just six the rest of the way. His total still led Windsor. Corey McKeithan added 14 points for the Warriors.
These two CCC foes squared off four times a season ago. East Catholic won the first three, including the CCC tournament title. Windsor won the last one, in the Division I state tournament quarterfinals on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in double overtime.
“Obviously, I wasn’t there to see the heartbreak of last year,” said Hunter, who transferred in from Nebraska. “We wanted to win this game very badly. This is what we train for every day in practice.”
With Notre Dame-West Haven’s overtime loss to Wilbur Cross Friday night, that leaves East Catholic as one of just three undefeated teams. Cromwell and Wamogo are the other two.
East Catholic 74, Windsor 52
East Catholic (74)
Joey Reilly 8 0-1 18, Chris Jones 1 0-0 3, Matt Knowling 7 2-4 16, Jaylin Hunter 10 2-4 25, Mayy Byam 2 0-0 4, Sam Walch 3 2-3 8.
Corey McKeithan 6 0-0 14, Jordan Riley 5 1-2 12, Amir Spears 6 2-2 16, Shomat leaphant 2 0-0 5, Blake Okologi 0 0-0 n0, Alex Peterson 0 1-2 1, Lawrence Foreman 2 0-0 4.