WEST HAVEN — Connor Raines and the rest of the Notre Dame-West Haven basketball team believe they can reach the Mohegan Sun, site of the Division I state final in March.
Through five games, the Green Knights have shown no reason why this is not possible
Behind a balanced scoring attack, led by 28 points from Raines, Notre Dame topped Stamford 75-60 in the Winter Snow Jam final at Tonelli Court on the campus of Notre Dame Saturday afternoon.
“Last year, we did not have the depth like we do this year,” Raines said. “This year, we have guys coming off the bench who can score. Teams can’t just focus on me. We can move the ball around, and now they have to focus on all of us.”
The Black Knights saw this first-hand as twice they cut a double-digit deficit to one point, only to see the Green Knights (5-0) pull away each time. The second time Stamford (2-3) got within a point on a 3-pointer by Jay Jaudon with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third quarter, the Green Knights responded with buckets by Zach Laput and Justin Covington to start a 10-2 run, which also included 3-pointers by Jaiden Kimbro and Eddie Zanor, for a 51-44 lead with 2:20 left in the quarter.
“It happened twice,” Stamford coach Zach Smith said. “It happened once in the first half and again in the second half. They obviously are very good. The biggest difference was coming out of timeouts, they executed and we didn’t. We have to be focused for 32 minutes night in and night out. We have to mature in those areas.”
The Green Knights, the No. 7 team in the Register/GameTimeCT Top 10 preseason poll, never trailed again, and built the lead to 21 points as they started the fourth quarter on a 15-2 run to take a 69-48 lead, effectively putting the game away.
That run saw 3-pointers by Trevon Setzer-Smith and Raines to open the run, and a 3-pointer by Setzer-Smith and two free throws by Raines to end it.
“We were able to move the ball around and get the mismatches we wanted,” Notre Dame coach Jason Shea said. “We got the ball to Connor (Raines) early, and when they adjusted, we were able to get the ball to others. I thought the other key was we picked up our defense and that allowed us to get out on the breaks.”
Setzer-Smith and Covington, who each finished with 10 points, played a big role early in the contest for the Green Knights as Setzer-Smith helped the team to an 8-2 lead and Covington led to a 13-10 advantage. Raines then helped his team to a 20-10 advantage with a bucket and a 3-pointer, before Stamforrd clawed back.
Baskets by Jaudon and Danny Simms got Stamford within 25-22, before another Notre Dame run capped with a basket by Kimbro had the Green Knights on top 32-24. The Green Knighs (5-0) added four more points as part of a 9-0 run and a 12-point lead.
“We have such balance,” Shea said. “Jaiden Kimbro is so good on both ends, Eddie Zanor knocks down a 3-pointer. Our defense, for the most part, has been very good.”
The Green Knights were effective on all areas of the floor, draining 21 field goals, knocking down seven 3-pointers, and connecting on 12 of 14 free throws.
Jaudon led Stamford with 28 points, while Josh Thervil connected for 26 in the loss Both were named to the All Tournament Team along with Raines and Ben Carroll from Notre Dame, Quannal Slaughter from West Haven, who scored 30 points in the consolation final win, and RHAM’s Josh Boehler.
Player of the Game
Connor Raines: Notre Dame senior led the way with 28 points, including seven field goals, two 3-pointers and 8-of-9 from the foul line. He was named the tournament’s MVP.
“We really work hard. I think we work harder than anybody with Coach Shea. Even on our days off, there are guys here shooting. Our team wants to get to the (Mohegan) Sun (for the (Division I state final), and I think we can do it.”
Notre Dame-West Haven 75, Stamford 60
Stamford (2-3-0) 15 13 18 14 — 60
Notre Dame (5-0) 21 19 14 21 — 75
Josh Thervil 5 2 7-10 26, Tyheim Burgess 1 0 0-0 2, Jay Jaudon 6 4 4-5 28, Manny Azolin 1 0 0-0 2
Notre Dame-West Haven (5-0-0)
Jaiden Kimbro 1 1 4-5 9, Justin Covington 5 0 0-0 10, Ben Carroll 4 0 0-0 8, Zach Laput 2 1 0-0 7, Connor Raines 7 2 8-9 28, Trevon Setzer Smith 2 2 0-0 10, Eddie Zanor 0 1 0-0 3