NORTH HAVEN — Sacred Heart Academy hadn’t lost a game since Feb. 19 when it was beaten by Mercy in Middletown.
But the Sharks won their next eight regular season games and rolled through the Southern Connecticut Conference Division II tournament with three victories, which culminated with a 55-39 triumph over West Haven Thursday night at North Haven High School.
Sacred Heart Academy (14-1) won each of its three games by at least 16 points in dominating the tournament.
“Our program has come a long way in a short amount of time,” Sacred Heart Academy coach Jason Kirck said. “When we started two years ago, we wanted to put Sacred Heart basketball back on the map. We have a great tradition of winning back in the 1990s. The way we finished the season, people have to know about Sacred Heart.”
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The first half was played at a frenetic pace, especially the first quarter. The two teams combined to hit 10 three-pointers in the opening eight minutes with all of the Sharks’ points coming from behind the arc.
West Haven took an early 5-3 lead on a try by Kassidy Carrano, but just 15 seconds later, Carina Ciampi (12 points) countered with a 3-pointer of her own to give Sacred Heart Academy the lead for good, 6-5, with 5:46 to go in the first quarter.
The threes continued to rain as Sacred Heart Academy took an 18-11 edge with 1:48 left in the first quarter as Rosa Rizzitelli (18 points) canned her third trey of the opening period. However, Amani Abuhatab (19 points) scored the last five points of the quarter to bring West Haven to within two, 18-16.
The pace slowed down considerably in the second quarter. A quick 8-3 run gave the Sharks a 26-19 lead, but the Blue Devils closed it back to four, 26-22, on a bucket by Sarah Evangelista.
Sacred Heart Academy scored the final seven points of the final quarter, four by Rizzitelli, to take a 33-22 lead at the break.
“They shot the lights out in the first half and we were hitting some shots as well,” West Haven coach Jessica Moriarty said. “Our depth hurt us, our legs got tired and we missed some shots.”
Throughout the night, West Haven (9-5) struggled in the rebounding category against the taller Sharks as injuries hurt the Blue Devils.
“They had a ton of boards and that gives you second and third opportunities,” Moriarty said. “We’re a small team and height is not in our favor.”
In the second half, the closest West Haven was able to get was seven points as the Blue Devils erased a 13-point deficit with a 6-0 run to make it 35-28 with 4:32 to play in the third quarter.
But a 14-6 spurt over the next 5:34 gave the Sharks their biggest lead to that point, 49-34, essentially breaking the game wide open. West Haven never got within 13 points after that.
“Tonight, we came in with a game plan defensively to try and shut a few things down,” Kirck said. “The girls accomplished that.”
Rizzitelli was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
“Eleven in a row to close out the season is an awesome accomplishment,” Kirck said. “We beat some good teams and won an SCC championship.”