Good Morning, Shark Nation… WE ARE ON @SportsCenter’s Top Ten Plays!!!
— SHA Athletics (@SHA_Sharks) February 17, 2021
It was all so familiar, except this time the shot went in.
Sacred Heart Academy junior Rosa Rizzitelli banked in a 3-pointer from the right side as time expired giving the Sharks a come-from-behind 56-55 win over Wilbur Cross Tuesday night.
After a timeout with 0.6 seconds remaining, Rizzitelli received the inbounds pass from Emma Kirck and let the shot fly from beyond the arc.
“It was exhilarating. I was surprised it went in but the play worked perfectly,” Rizzitelli said. “It was the perfect screen, perfect pass from Emma and somehow I banked it in. I couldn’t believe it. It was a great call by Coach Kirck.”
Video of the shot quickly took on a life of its own on social media and by the end of the night, the play was national news.
The play was featured at No. 5 on Tuesday night’s Sports Center Top 10 Plays with the ESPN anchor saying “One thing I remember in Connecticut is never go against the Sacred Heart women’s high school basketball team. Never.”
It was Rizzitelli in virtually the same spot on the floor during the second round of last season’s CIAC Class L State Tournament shooting a 3-ponter at the buzzer off a pass from Kirck.
That shot in the state tournament was on line but just missed, ending the Sharks season.
Tuesday, Rizzitelli’s shot fell, in part because she has been obsessed with her miss since March.
“That was basically the same shot from the same spot. Everything was the same except the pass from Emma came from across the court not under the basket,” Rizzitelli said.
“I was devastated when I missed that shot. I know it’s not why we lost but if I make that, we win. Since that day I stayed after practice every day practicing that shot from that spot. I wouldn’t leave practice until I made it every day. You never know when your opportunity will come again and lucky for me, I got another chance at the same shot and I made this one. All that work paid off.”
It might just be the kind of win Sacred Heart needs as it rebuilds its program.
“Rosa had one result against Pomperaug and another last night,” SHA coach Jason Kirck said. “That shot in the state tournament drove Rosa to get better in the offseason. I know it motivated her and for her to have this moment is great. And getting the pass from Emma in the same spot, it was a great moment for her.”
The win did more than just get the team on Sports Center, it gave the team another signature win against one of the top teams in the SCC.
Wilbur Cross is considered one of the favorites in the SCC this season with four seniors starting Tuesday night.
Compare that to the Sharks, who do not have a senior on the roster, and it is a pivotal moment for a program that won just a combined four games in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
“Cross is really good. They are tough, skilled, aggressive and fast and (Cross sophomore Jaylice) Rosario is a stud,” Kirck said.
“We showed grit and determination last night. Making the last shot is a big deal but I was proud of their attitude and how they fought even if we had lost. This is a turning point for our program. This group is coming into their own and looking to get better every day.”
The resurgence began last season with the Sharks finishing the regular season 17-3 with a team featuring just three seniors, seven sophomores, six freshmen and no juniors.
The Sharks came out of nowhere, beating both Hillhouse and Hamden during the regular season and finishing third in the SCC standings before losing to Amity in the opening round of the SCC tournament.
That team reached the second round of the Class L tournament, before losing 39-38 with the final shot for the Sharks just missing from almost the exact same spot Tuesday’s shot was made.
Kirck, now in his second year as head coach, said he was expecting big things from this team.
“I’m not surprised by anything we do,” Kirck said. “The kids rise to the challenge. We have good players with great attitudes, good players who work hard ever day, good players who believe in the system and want to be the best. We are playing and practicing to get better every day.”
Kirck said while the last 24 hours have been a whirlwind, the team needs to refocus on what is ahead and not what just happened.
“We are happy today but that ends when practice begins at 3:30 today. We have a rivalry game against Mercy Friday night and that is what we will be focused on come 3:30,” Kirck said. “It’s one of those things. We work hard and prepare and then it comes down to making a 3 at the buzzer.”