CIAC TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS: 5 PLAYERS | PREDICTIONS | TOP 10 | SCHEDULE / SCOREBOARD
One More Time?
Storyline: East Catholic won its fourth CCC championship in the last five years. But it was its old Northwest Conference rival that reached the final. Yes, Northwest Catholic handed Windsor its first in-state loss in the tournament semifinals. So the only way East Catholic and Windsor could resume the state’s best rivalry is at the Mohegan Sun Arena in two weeks in the Division I championship game. In this loaded field, that would be no small accomplishment.
You should know: Corey McKeithan’s 360 move splitting East Catholic defenders for the game-winning layup in the final seconds was the difference in Windsor’s 48-45 victory at home on Jan. 28.
The New ECC Kings
Storyline: There are only two remaining undefeated teams. One of them is Norwich Free Academy. The Wildcats rolled through the Eastern Connecticut Conference regular season, then the first two games of the Division I tournament. But they struggled in the final at Mohegan against Ledyard. The Colonels led going to the fourth quarter, but NFA was able to rally to win. NFA will be faced with another grind-it-out type game — or two — and will need to overcome those to make a return trip to the Mohegan Sun Arena.
You should know: Only three players scored for NFA in the victory over Ledyard, led by Mason Jackson’s 26 points.
Storyline: You know the NVL winning streak would end some time for Sacred Heart, but may have come as a surprise where it did. After going through a sixth straight regular season unbeaten, the Hearts fell to Holy Cross in the NVL tournament semifinals. But that didn’t affect their seeding in Division 1: the Hearts are the top seed and will try to navigate a difficult field without 7-foot center Connor Tierney, who is out with a shoulder injury.
You should know: Sacred Heart’s run of five straight state finals ended last year in the Division I quarterfinals to Trumbull.
Storyline: Trinity Catholic announced on Feb. 27 that the school would be closing at the end of the school year due in part to declining enrollment. So one of the most storied basketball programs in state history will cease to exist. The Crusaders have won seven state basketball championships under former coach Mike Walsh, now an assistant. Now it’s Brian Kriftcher’s turn to try to win one last state championship after Trinity Catholic lost an opportunity to bring home the FCIAC title last week.
You should know: Trinity Catholic won 13 straight games before losing to Ridgefield in the FCIAC final.
Elm City Legacy
Storyline: Hillhouse has owned the city of New Haven, the mecca of high school basketball, for quite some time. Even when Wilbur Cross knocked off Notre Dame-West Haven to win its seventh SCC championship last year, it tied Hillhouse atop the standings. Then Hillhouse went to Cross and beat the Governors in the Division I state tournament opening round. But by beating the top three seeds in this year’s SCC tournament — including Hillhouse in the semifinals — to defend the title and stand alone with eight SCC crowns, Cross isn’t playing second fiddle any longer. Now the Governors can try to knock out the defending champions in the second round of Division I: East Catholic.
You should know: Wilbur Cross last won a state championship in 1985.
Wake Up the Echoes?
Storyline: Notre Dame-West Haven put up another great regular season, dropping just one game by one point. The Green Knights returned to the SCC tournament final, but lost to Wilbur Cross in the championship final for the second straight year. Notre Dame gets another crack in Division I as the No. 4 seed and awaits the winner of Manchester and Danbury.
You should know: If seeding holds to form, No. 5 Immaculate would await the Green Knights in the quarterfinals. The Mustangs eliminated the Green Knights in last year’s quarterfinals.
A Prince Among Men
Storyline: Prince Tech is the only other remaining unbeaten. The Falcons cruised through the CTC tournament as expected. But do not sell this team short because of the word Tech: The Falcons have beaten Wilbur Cross, Bassick, Weaver, Manchester and Fitch. Now they are the top seed in Division II and are led by senior Kazell Stewart, who can score in a variety of ways that will cause headaches for the opposition.
You should know: Prince Tech last appeared in a state final a decade ago, losing to Hyde of New Haven in Class S.
Take the Greyhound
Storyline: Naugatuck was expected to be a contender for the Naugatuck Valley League championship this year. The Greyhounds went 19-1 during the regular season, the loss coming at Sacred Heart. Holy Cross then knocked off the Hearts in the NVL tournament semifinals. Naugatuck took care of Holy Cross to win its first league championship since 1969. Now as the No. 2 seed in Division II, the Greyhounds hope to make it 2 for 2 in the postseason.
You should know: Naugatuck will be attempting to win ts first state championship since 1942.
Storyline: It’s been awhile since we have heard from Northwest Catholic on the state scene. It’s last finals appearance came in 2012 in Class L. Its last state championship was in 2003 (Class L). The Lions worked their way into the top 10 poll in January, but fell out after a pair of late-season losses. They upended Windsor in the CCC tournament semifinals before falling to East Catholic in the final. The Lions are the odds-on favorite in Division III.
You should know: Northwest Catholic went to consecutive Class L state championship games in 2011 and 2012, losing to New London and Career, respectively.
Storyline: Old Lyme had a fine 2018-19 season, going 21-6. Two of those losses came in finals: the Shoreline Conference to Cromwell and Division V to Innovation. With an experienced group returning, under the direction of longtime head coach Kirk Kaczor, the Wildcats got some redemption by eliminating Cromwell in the semifinals before topping Morgan in the final, thus completing a perfect season in the league. They are the top seed in Division V and want to return to the Mohegan Sun — and take that final step this time.
You should know: Last year was Old Lyme’s first appearance in a state final.