Wednesday, February 28, 2018

TUESDAY'S CIAC GIRLS ROUNDUP: WCA rallies for road win

Three out of four area teams won their girls first round state tournament games on Tuesday night.
No. 24 WCA had the win of the night in Class L, rallying for a 44-43 road win over No. 9 Bullard-Havens. The scoring of Michalyn Vaichus (eight points in fourth quarter), defense of Leila Lazaro, and inbound prowess of Shyra Fisher were all key in the comeback. The Spartans were down 30-25 entering the fourth quarter, but rallied for the win and their first appearance in the second round in program history. WCA (11-11) faces No. 8 Windsor (16-5) on Friday at 7 p.m. in Windsor.
No. 16 Crosby's Class L stint lasted just one game. A basket from No. 17 Platt with 12 seconds left led to a 55-54 heartbreaking loss at The Palace. The Bulldogs were led by the scoring of Tiahna Pulliam. It was the final game for Crosby seniors Ana Lala, Gloria Vergeli, Erica Soares, Leyda Colon and Venus Calderon. The Bulldogs finished 13-9.
No. 2 Holy Cross dispatched No. 31 Joel Barlow by a score of 52-25 at The Pit. Devan Eason led the Crusaders with 12 points, and Hannah Brown added nine. Holy Cross used a 17-1 fourth quarter to blow the game wide open. The Crusaders (20-3) host No. 15 East Lyme (14-7) on Friday at 7 p.m.
No. 6 Sacred Heart won its Class S first round game over No. 27 Ellis Tech in blowout fashion by a score of 70-31. The Hearts were up 46-7 at halftime in a game where they were never challenged. Aamya Rivera scored 16 points, Jenna Madigan added 11, and Hayley Tucker chipped in nine. Sacred Heart (19-5) hosts No. 11 Old Lyme (15-6) on Friday at 7 p.m.

CIAC boys seeds released: Sacred Heart, Bristol Central No. 4 in Division I and II

Sacred Heart is the No. 4 seed in Division I.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2018 file)
The CIAC boys basketball state tournament seeds have been released, and there are some interesting twists.
No. 4 Sacred Heart, No. 9 Holy Cross and No. 17 Crosby are all in the upper half of the Division I bracket, along with No. 1 East Catholic. On the other side is No. 19 Kennedy.
The first round begins on March 5, and both the Bulldogs and the Eagles are in action. No. 17 Crosby will play at No. 16 Norwich Free Academy at 6 p.m. No. 19 Kennedy is at No. 14 East Hartford at 6 p.m. The winner of Crosby/NFA gets No. 1 East Catholic on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Manchester, while the winner of Kennedy/East Hartford will face No. 3 Bassick on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Bridgeport.
No. 4 Sacred Heart has a bye and will play the winner of No. 13 Hillhouse/No. 20 Fairfield Prep on March 7 at 7 p.m. No. 9 Holy Cross also has a bye, but already know its opponent, and that is No. 8 Windsor, which it will play on March 7 at 7 p.m. in Windsor.

Bristol Central is the No. 4 seed in Division II.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2018 file)
Division II
No. 4 Bristol Central gets a first round bye. The Rams get the winner of No. 13 Wilton/No. 20 Norwalk on Thursday at 7 p.m. Central is on the upper side of the bracket, along with No. 1 Simsbury.
On the other side of the bracket is No. 11 WCA. The Spartans host No. 22 Middletown on Tuesday at 7 p.m., but not at WCA. The gym is considered too small to host a state tournament game, so it will be played at Crosby High School.

Division III
The locals in this division are No. 11 St Paul and No. 24 Wolcott. 
The Falcons host No. 22 Joel Barlow on Monday at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will play No. 6 Torrington, which has a first round bye, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Falcons lost their only game against the Red Raiders this season by a wide margin.
The Eagles are on the road at No. 9 Avon on Monday at 7 p.m. The winner takes on the winner of No. 8 Brookfield/No. 25 Lyman Hall on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Division IV
The only local team in this division is No. 27 Kaynor Tech, which is at No. 6 Sports and Medical Sciences Academy on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The winner gets the winner of No. 11 Rockville/No. 22 Foran on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Division V
There are no area teams in this division.

The state finals for boys and girls are on Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

CIAC GIRLS HOOP DAY 1: Wolcott, St. Paul rally for first round wins

Wolcott girls basketball rallied in the fourth quarter for a Class M first round win on Monday.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2018 file)
Wolcott and St. Paul girls basketball both needed rallies to win their Class M first round games on Monday night.
The No. 23 Eagles (13-10) outscored No. 10 Amistad 21-7 in the fourth quarter for a 56-53 road victory. The No. 3 Falcons (18-4) ran off a 27-17 second half and beat No. 30 Oxford 44-37 at home.
For Wolcott, Raven Cody had 28 big points, including 11-of-13 at the foul line. Kailyn Lawlor scored 15 points and went 5-of-8 on free throws. Because of No. 26 Immaculate's win over No. 7 Wilcox Tech of Meriden, the Eagles will host the Mustangs on Thursday at 5 p.m. in a second round matchup.
For St. Paul, Morgan Kolb had a game-high 18 points. Jade Udoh was big inside for the Falcons with eight points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Aidrianna Lopez came up with 13 rebounds for St. Paul, which hosts No. 14 Stonington on Thursday at 7 p.m.
No. 32 Bristol Eastern saw its season end with a Class LL first round loss at No. 1 New London. The Lancers finished their season at 7-14. It was the final game for seniors Miranda Janick, Hannah Maghini, Karly Martin and Cassie Doyon. Maghini led Eastern with seven points.

Today: Four local teams open state tournament play. In Class L, No. 16 Crosby hosts No. 17 Platt, No. 24 WCA is at No. 9 Bullard-Havens, and No. 2 Holy Cross is home against No. 31 Joel Barlow of Redding. In Class S, No. 6 Sacred Heart is home against No. 27 Ellis Tech. Of the four games, Sacred Heart-Ellis Tech is the only one at 6 p.m. The other three contests begin at 7 p.m.

NVL TOURNEY ANALYSIS: Hearts and Crusaders get to final

Marcellus Gomes of Holy Cross and Jessah Doctor (11) of WCA
go up for a rebound during Monday's NVL semifinal at Wilby.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
It'll be No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the NVL boys tournament final on Wednesday night at Wilby's Reggie O'Brien Gymnasium.
Top-seeded Sacred Heart turned what was just a five-point lead in the third quarter into a 67-43 victory over No. 5 Crosby. The Hearts used stingy defense, transition offense and the silky shooting of Raheem Solomon (game-high 27 points) and Isiah Gaiter (21) to run away with the win and make their fourth straight final. Markeese Days led Crosby with 15.
Second-seeded Holy Cross needed all 32 minutes to dispatch third-seeded WCA 61-54 in the first semifinal of the night on George Tirado Court. DeAndre Wallace had a game-high 20 points, but 14 of those came in the first half, including his 1,000th career point. In the second half, the Crusaders got 10 points from Jack Greene and eight from Mikey West. Great passing on the offensive end, and better defense, helped Holy Cross get past a pesky WCA. The Spartans were led by 15 points from Jadan Battle, 14 from Matt Torres (4 3-pointers) 11 from Marquan Watson.
In the final, Holy Cross will have the unenviable task of trying to contain Solomon and Gaiter. No one has really been able to in the NVL this season, and the Crusaders have to do so in order to have a chance to win. More defense like the kind displayed in the fourth quarter against WCA would certainly be good for Holy Cross.
For Sacred Heart, more of the same from Solomon and Gaiter would be great, but the Hearts must also work to keep Wallace and company (Greene, Nyzair Rountree, Marcellus Gomes) off the offensive glass. Sacred Heart must also deny Holy Cross penetration and passing lanes.  
Ball-handling will be another big key. Sacred Heart looks to turn any mistake into transition points, and Holy Cross cannot give the top seed extra opportunities.
The top seeds in the NVL square off Wednesday at 7 p.m. It should be a fun game.

PHOTOS: Click here to see my images from the Holy Cross-WCA game.

STORIES: Here's what I wrote for the Rep-Am, and here's what Joe Palladino had to say about Sacred Heart-Crosby.

VIDEO: Go to The Zone for Palladino's highlights from the two semifinal games.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bristol Eastern wrestling ties for second at State Open

Bristol Eastern wrestling tied for second place as a team at the State Open on Saturday at New Haven's Floyd Little Athletic Center.
The Lancers had 95 team points, which tied them with Killingly and Fairfield Warde for runners-up. Danbury claimed the team title with 149.5 points.
Eastern had four place-winners, led by a second from Trinidad Gonzalez at 195 pounds. Jordon Champagne took third at 113, Mikey Barrett was fifth at 160, and Justin Marshall was 6th at 152.
Bristol Central's Chris Trelli was fifth at 120.

Bristol Central boys move on to CCC semifinals

Jaekwon Spencer had another big game for Bristol Central with 27 points
in Saturday's 74-69 CCC quarterfinal win over Enfield.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2018 file)
No. 4 Bristol Central boys basketball outlasted No. 5 Enfield 74-69 in a CCC quarterfinal round game on Saturday at Hartford's Bulkeley High School.
The Rams' prize for outlasting the Eagles? Another team of Eagles, but this one is top-ranked (state) and top-seeded (CCC) East Catholic. The Eagles defeated No. 8 Glastonbury 75-61 in the final quarterfinal of the night. That semifinal is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Tuesday at Bulkeley.
Jaekwon Spencer once again led Central in scoring, this time with 27 points, but he also had plenty of help. Alex Bernier had 18 big points, Noah Plantamuro tallied 11, and Dathan Hickey and Isaiah Miller chipped in seven each. Plantamuro had two big free throws to extend the Ram lead to 73-69 with 23 seconds left to play. Central had been up by nine points, 62-53, with 4:59 left in the game. Enfield rallied, but the Rams held on and punched their ticket to the CCC semifinals. The other semifinal is at 7 p.m. and matches up No. 2 Windsor and No. 3 Simsbury.

NVL TOURNAMENT ROUNDUP: Holy Cross boys rally for win over St. Paul

Mikey West goes in for two of his 16 points, which tied with DeAndre Wallace for the Holy Cross
lead in the 56-45 NVL first round win over St. Paul. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
At one point in the third quarter of Saturday's NVL Tournament first round game, the No. 7 St. Paul boys led No. 2 Holy Cross by nine points.
The Crusaders had struggled on offense and needed a spark. Holy Cross turned up the fullcourt pressure, pounded the backboards, and rallied. The Crusaders tied the game by the end of the third quarter, then pulled away for a 56-45 win over the Falcons.
Holy Cross will play third-seeded WCA, an 85-74 winner over No. 6 Naugatuck, on Monday in a 5 p.m. semifinal back at the Reggie O'Brien Gymnasium at Wilby High School. DeAndre Wallace and Mikey West had 16 points apiece to lead the Crusaders.
Gaeley Etienne had three points near the end of the third quarter to pull Holy Cross to a 36-all tie. A Wallace dunk put the Crusaders ahead to stay early in the fourth quarter. 
A Matt Garry 3-pointer got St. Paul to within 50-45 at just over a minute to play, but Holy Cross scored the last six points. Garry had 12 points for the Falcons while Tyler Arbuckle led the team with 15 points.
The game went at St. Paul's pace in the first half, as Falcon patience resulted in a 25-19 halftime lead. Holy Cross had the game tied by the end of the third quarter, then West scored nine of the 20 Crusader points in the fourth quarter.

PHOTOS: Click here to see my images from the Holy Cross-St. Paul game.

No. 3 WCA 85, No. 6 Naugatuck 74: The Spartans got off to a slow start, then blew past the Greyhounds and onto the NVL semifinals.
WCA had a very balanced offense, led by 21 points from Langstun Racine. Matt Torres scored 19 points while Jadan Battle and Marquan Watson struck for 17 apiece. Once the Spartans got rolling, they blew the game open. WCA led 51-31 at halftime.

No. 1 Sacred Heart 76, No. 8 Seymour 48: Raheem Solomon and Isiah Gaiter combined for 54 points, including the first 31 for the Hearts.
Each player finished with 27 points as Sacred Heart rolled to the victory. The Hearts jumped out to a 29-9 lead after one quarter and never looked back. Sacred Heart will play fifth-seeded Crosby on Monday in the other NVL semifinal at 7 p.m.

No. 5 Crosby 99, No. 4 Torrington 73: The Bulldogs led 51-32 at the half and shot their way to the win over the Red Raiders, who beat them in the season opener in Torrington.
Kerwin Prince had 24 points to lead Crosby, but he was far from the only scorer. Justin Davis had 23 points (5 3-pointers), Markeese Days put in 19, and Tyler Spears added 18 (4 3-pointers).
It was bombs away for the Bulldogs, who are very tough to stop when they get hot from long range.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Local standouts Collins, Rodriguez, Johnson take the court in Little East semifinal matchup

Collins (ECSU athletics)
Rodriguez (WCSU athletics)
State rivals Eastern Connecticut State and Western Connecticut State met in the Little East Conference men's basketball tournament semifinals on Friday night.
A pair of former Bristol standouts went against each other, Jacob Collins for ECSU and Eli Rodriguez for WCSU. The Warriors got the better of the Colonials 92-82.
Collins, a Bristol Central graduate, poured in 19 points off the bench on 8-of-10 shooting. Collins knocked down three of his four three-point attempts, and he also pulled down eight rebounds and blocked a shot in 21 minutes.
Johnson (WCSU athletics)
The 19 points and eight rebounds are both career-highs for Collins, who has been strong off the bench for ECSU. He has shooting percentages of 60.8 from the field and 54.8 from three-point range.
Rodriguez, a Bristol Eastern alum, also had a big night with 18 points and seven rebounds for WCSU. He was 7-of-12 shooting, including a terrific 4-of-6 from three-point range. Rodriguez also had two steals in his 31 minutes of play. Rodriguez started the game for the Colonials. Rodriguez had eight of his points and four of his rebounds in 18 minutes in the second half. 
As if that wasn't enough, there was a third local who saw time in this game. Legend Johnson, formerly of Sacred Heart High School, played 25 minutes off the bench for WCSU. He had nine points on 4-of-11 shooting, grabbed five rebounds and recorded one assist and one steal.
Rodriguez and Johnson had solid nights for WCSU, but Collins and defending LEC champion ECSU are headed back to the final. The Warriors face Keene State today with an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament on the line.

Note: There's a great photo from Nick McAneny on the main page of the ECSU athletics website. Collins is attacking the basket as Johnson challenges him.

Wilby boys come up one win shy of state tourney spot

Wilby boys basketball lost at home to Seymour on Friday night and ended its season
one win shy of the state tournament. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
For Wilby boys basketball, it was a long and difficult 2017-18 season.
Still, the Wildcats had an outside shot of making it into the state tournament. Wilby was 6-12 entering its last two games against Wolcott and Seymour. Win both, and Wilby would qualify for the tournament.
Dezon Mayo's putback against Wolcott took care of the first win.
Wilby hosted Seymour on Friday night inside the Reggie O'Brien Gymnasium. It was Senior Night, and Wilby jumped out to a 9-3 lead. Wilby held a 13-12 advantage after one quarter, but a big second period from Seymour led to a 32-22 deficit at the half. Wilby didn't have enough to catch up and lost 64-59, ending its season at 7-13.
Rontay Williams scored 22 points to lead Wilby. Angel Gonzalez had 14 points and Antawuan Black added nine.

PHOTOS: Click here to see a few images from the game.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Kaynor Tech boys clinch spot in Division IV state tourney

Kaynor Tech boys basketball will be in the Division IV state tournament
after Friday night's win over Woodland. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file)
The Kaynor Tech boys basketball team had two games to get their eighth win and clinch a Division IV state tournament berth.
The Panthers took care of business in the first of those two games on Friday night, knocking off Woodland 63-52 in Beacon Falls. Kaynor is 8-11 in the regular season with one game left against Amistad on Saturday. The Panthers also won a Connecticut Technical Conference tournament play-in this week for a total record of 9-11.
James Hannon went off, nailing six 3-pointers on the way to 20 points. Sydney Asiedu added 19 points while Darren Guerrera and Saijon McIntosh each contributed eight points.
Kaynor was 7-7 after a win over Wolcott Tech on Feb. 1. The Panthers lost four straight games to fall to 7-11. Kaynor could have let that streak ruin its season.
Instead, the Panthers found their winning ways for the eighth time this season, and that was enough to get into the state tournament.

Wolcott boys win in overtime in regular season finale, clinch state tourney berth

Elmin Redzepagic (shooting) and Wolcott are headed
to the Division III state tournament.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2018 file)
It came down to the final game of the regular season for Wolcott boys basketball in its quest to reach the state tournament.
Then that final game went to overtime. 
The Eagles made sure the extra time went their way, outscoring host Ansonia 8-3 to pull off a 64-59 win on Friday night. That win was the eighth for Wolcott, and that means the Eagles qualified for the Division III state tournament.
Elmin Redzepagic continued his torrid scoring pace with a game-high 26 points, which included four 3-pointers. Mike Tessarzik went for 21 points, including three treys.

Ansonia hit a 3 to start the overtime scoring, but Wolcott answered with eight straight points. After two straight two-point losses, the Eagles had the win they needed.
Wolcott is 24th out of 26 qualifiers in Division III, and there will be byes for the highest seeds. 
The Eagles are just happy to be in the state tournament. There was a time this season when Wolcott was 4-10. The Eagles won three straight games, then came a pair of two-point losses to Naugatuck and Wilby. Wolcott could have succumbed to the pressure. Instead, they fought their way into the tournament.
The pairings come out on Wednesday, Feb. 28. For the Eagles, it won't matter where they go. The bottom line is Wolcott made it into the state tournament.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Plantamuro's outside shooting sinks Avon, pushes Central into CCC quarterfinals

This 3-pointer by Noah Plantamuro gave Bristol Central a 41-36
lead after three quarters. It was part of a 15-0 run that put Avon away.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Throughout Thursday night's CCC Tournament first round game inside Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium, you could hear Avon head coach Kris Pedra yelling "Shooter!"
Pedra was referring to Bristol Central senior sniper Noah Plantamuro. The objective for the Falcons in their zone was to stay close to Plantamuro and not give him good looks.
The Rams used offensive sets, penetration and flat-out good passing to free their sharpshooter, and Plantamuro didn't disappoint, to the dismay of the visitors. Plantamuro sank five 3-pointers, including some back-breakers, on his way to 15 points and fourth-seeded Central (17-4) pulled away for a 60-43 victory over No. 13 Avon.
The Rams will play the winner of No. 5 Middletown and No. 12 Enfield on Saturday at Hartford's Bulkeley High School at a time to be determined. Those two teams saw their matchup postponed to Friday.
Jaekwon Spencer attacked the basket more in the second half and finished
with a game-high 21 points. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Plantamuro's biggest 3-pointer of the night came on Central's last possession of the third quarter. The Rams led 38-36 and ran a play for Plantamuro, who buried a trey in front of the Central bench.
Central scored the last five points of the third quarter, then went for 10 more to start the fourth quarter. The lead was 51-36, and Avon was done.
"You could see the momentum, and it was starting to snowball," Rams head coach Tim Barrette said.
Central "lived and died" by the 3-pointer in a 24-22 first half that wasn't aesthetically pleasing. The Rams played the style the Falcons wanted.
Plantamuro and Jaekwon Spencer (game-high 21 points) helped get Central going in the third quarter, and the Rams built a 41-36 lead entering the fourth quarter. Plantamuro made four 3s in the second half, and Isaiah Miller added a trey in the third quarter.
"In the second half, we hit 3s, but we hit good 3s," Barrette said.
The 3-pointers came in the flow of the offense. The offense was also helped out by Central's defense, which allowed Avon just seven points in the fourth quarter. Stops on the defensive end allowed Spencer to push the ball and get to the basket in transition. Spencer also looked to get into the paint more, which made for driving lanes for himself and open opportunities for others.
"Jaekwon really focused on getting inside, [Alex] Bernier made [a big hoop], and next thing you know we pulled away at the end.
Alex Bernier's role is to provide a spark off the bench, and he had four points in the first quarter, where Central struggled to a 13-13 tie.
Senior stopper Dathan Hickey held Avon's Jordan Williams to 12 points. Blanketing the other team's big scorer has been Hickey's specialty this season, and he has excelled at it.
"What we talked about tonight is knowing your role, and that's his role," Barrette said.
Another role for Spencer was being the ice man at the foul line. Spencer knocked down 5-of-6 free throws in the fourth quarter to help Central put the game away.
Everyone has a role, and there can be a different scorer on any given night.
"It allows you to ride the hot hand," Barrette said. "Most coaches don't have that ability. We right now are eight deep, and we can pretty much ride the hot hand."
Spencer did his usual damage, but Plantamuro was the hot hand that helped the Rams get over the top.

HIGH 5 OF THE WEEK: Patterson, LeBeau part of two Top 5 relays for SCSU

Patterson (SCSU athletics)
For the second straight season, the Southern Connecticut State University men's indoor track and field team won a Northeast-10 championship.
Two area freshmen got to play a role in that title win. Terrell Patterson, a former standout at Kaynor Tech, and Christopher LeBeau, a top runner for Bristol Eastern, each ran in the same relay.
Patterson, LeBeau, Dan Perusina and Carlos Flores teamed up for a the 4x800-meter relay, and they finished fifth in a time of 8:08.05. The quartet earned four team points for the Owls.
LeBeau (SCSU athletics)
Patterson ran the first leg of the relay in 1:59.81. After Perusina ran the second leg, LeBeau took over for the third leg and finished it in 2:03.83. Flores completed the relay with his leg in a time of 2:05.60. The crazy part about the relay was that everyone in it is a freshman.
Patterson and LeBeau also took part in the distance medley, which finished fifth. Sophomore Justin Kelly and freshman Shawn Odei-Ntiri also took part in the relay, which finished in 10:21.08.
LeBeau also took part in the mile and he finished sixth in a time of 4:20.44.
The meet was held this past Saturday and Sunday at the Smith College Track and Tennis Center in Northampton, Mass.

Elder (SNHU athletics)

Ashley Elder, Southern New Hampshire University
indoor track and field

The former Bristol Central standout also participated in the Northeast-10 championship meet.
Elder, one of the best in the league in the shot put, took second with a throw of 44-02 feet. The winning toss from SCSU's Destiney Coward traveled 44-10.25. Elder finished just .21 meter behind Coward (13.46 to 13.67).
Elder earned eight points for SNHU. It was the seventh Top 5, and sixth Top 2, finish this year for the junior. She also competed in the weight throw and finished ninth.
SNHU finished eighth out of 12 teams.

Rodriguez (Wheelock athletics)
Dejuan Rodriguez, Wheelock College basketball
The Wildcats lost their first round New England Collegiate Conference playoff game 62-54 to Lesley, but Rodriguez did what he could to alter that outcome.
Rodriguez led all scorers with 21 points, and he pulled down 11 rebounds. The junior played all 40 minutes, shot 9-of-16 from the floor, and even made a 3-pointer. Rodriguez is Wheelock's tallest player at 6-foot-5. He also had one assist and two steals.
Rodriguez started 23 of the 24 games he played in and averaged 15.9 points and 8.3 rebounds in 29.9 minutes. He led the team in points per game and rebounds per contest. Rodriguez had games of 31, 30, 29 and 28 points. His top rebounding game was 15, followed by a pair of 13-board efforts.

Matt Finke, Mitchell College basketball
Finke (Mitchell athletics)

In another NECC playoff game, the Mariners defeated Elms College 70-49 at home, and Finke got a chance to show what he can do.
The sophomore reserve played 18 minutes and filled in many spots on the statsheet. Finke had four points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals in his time on the floor. The former Wolcott standout shot 1-of-2 from the floor, missed his lone three-point attempt and knocked down both of his free throw opportunities.
Mitchell goes to Becker College for a semifinal game tonight at 7 o'clock.

Statistics and information compiled from the team website of each athlete.

Sacred Heart girls win first NVL title since 1976

Treasure Coleman (right) earned tournament MVP honors as Sacred Heart
won its first NVL Tournament championship, and its first league title since 1976.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2018 file)
A big first half helped fourth-seeded Sacred Heart capture its first NVL title since 1976 on Wednesday night at Kennedy's Jack Taglia Gymnasium.
The Hearts outscored the third-seeded Naugatuck Greyhounds by nine in the opening 16 minutes and held on for a 44-37 victory. Treasure Coleman had 18 points, 10 rebounds and six steals and was named tournament MVP. Backcourt mate Aamya Rivera added 12 points.
Sacred Heart improved to 18-5 with the win, and the girls were proud of bringing a championship to a program often overlooked because of the boys team.
The Hearts have more work ahead of them next week. The Class S state tournament begins Tuesday at 7 p.m. No. 6 Sacred Heart hosts No. 27 Ellis Tech.
Sacred Heart can celebrate its title now, but the focus will need to quickly turn to the state tournament.
Go to The Zone to get a full story on the game from Jason Levy, along with video from Joe Palladino. Some good stuff there, so enjoy it!

Mike Palmieri gets his 1,000th point in close St. Paul loss to WCA

St. Paul senior standout Mike Palmieri needed 20 points Tuesday night against WCA to reach 1,000 for his career.
Palmieri got those 20 points, plus three more, and reached the career scoring milestone. He had a game-high 23 points for the Falcons in the 68-67 loss to the Spartans.
St. Paul associate head coach Brendan Phelps had nothing but praise for Palmieri, who has trained with Phelps since elementary school.
"I love you Mike and couldn't be prouder of the person and player that you are," Phelps wrote on Facebook.
Palmieri was a All-NVL selection last season and is among the best guards in the league again this season.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Holy Cross, St. Paul girls garner top seeds in state tourneys

The CIAC girls basketball state tournament pairings are out, and Holy Cross and St. Paul are seeded the highest.
The Crusaders (19-3) are the No. 2 seed in Class L. The biggest question for the 2017 Class L runner-up is the health of All-NVL and All-City senior Meah Austin. Austin was hurt in the NVL semifinal loss to Sacred Heart and had to be helped off the floor. Holy Cross loses a big piece if Austin can't go. Aiyana Ward, who was All-NVL, All-City, the top NVL senior and top city senior, would have to take on even more of the load. The Crusaders would be helped big time, with or without Austin, if they can make more outside shots. All-Brass choice Julia Mecca can be one of those outside options. Holy Cross opens the tournament next Tuesday in The Pit against No. 31 Joel Barlow (6-14 regular season) at 7 p.m.
St. Paul (17-4) is the No. 3 seed in Class M, and it opens at home with NVL foe Oxford (9-11), the No. 30 seed, next Monday at 7 p.m. The Falcons have had injury issues, biggest of which the loss of All-NVL sophomore Janessa Gonzalez for the season, and they will need a slew of contributions, including those from All-Copper sophomore Jade Udoh. St. Paul won both regular season matchups against its Copper Division foe from Oxford.
Sacred Heart (17-5), which plays in tonight's NVL final, is the No. 6 seed in Class S. The Hearts and their terrific three-headed attack of Treasure Coleman (All-NVL, All-City), Aamya Rivera (All-Brass) and Mikayla Mobley (All-Brass) host No. 27 Ellis Tech (9-11) next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Hall.
Crosby (13-8) is the No. 16 seed in Class L. The Bulldogs, led by All-NVL and All-City standout Tiahna Pulliam, host No. 17 Platt (12-8) next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at The Palace. All-Brass member Gloria Vergeli will look to help Crosby's cause.
Wolcott (12-10) is seeded 23rd in Class M and travels to No. 10 Amistad (15-5) next Monday for a 7 p.m. game. The Eagles will look for a big effort from All-NVL standout Raven Cody.
WCA (10-11) is the No. 24 seed in Class L and will travel to No. 9 Bullard-Havens (13-5) next Tuesday for a 7 p.m. contest. All-NVL and All-City choice Armani Weaver hopes to have her outside touch for the Spartans.
Bristol Eastern (7-13) is the last team in for Class LL at No. 32. The Lancers will have to go to New London to face the top seed, which is also the No. 1 team in the state. The Whalers play for a ECC title tonight. Eastern and New London play next Monday at 7 p.m.

Mayo's putback gives Wilby boys stunning road win at Wolcott

Dezon Mayo's putback kept Wilby's postseason hopes alive.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Wilby boys basketball game is still alive for a state tournament berth because of Dezon Mayo.
Wolcott is in the same one-game scenario because of Dezon Mayo.
Mayo's putback on a missed shot with four seconds left gave the Wildcats a 54-52 victory over the Eagles on their Senior Night at the John H. Morris Gymnasium Tuesday.
Mayo had eight points, and his last two were by far the most important. Both teams are 7-12 and need a win in their final game for a state tournament berth because of Mayo's shot.
Christian Harris led Wilby with 21 points and TyQway Harding added 12. Harding got off to a good start in the first half with several runners in the lane.
Elmin Redzepagic (23) shot his way to a game-high 25 points.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Elmin Redzepagic paced Wolcott with 25 points, hitting from both inside and outside the three-point arc. Redzepagic ended the game with three 3-pointers. Jack Drewry had 11 points while battling inside for the Eagles. Mike Tessarzik and Chris Harris chipped in eight points apiece.
Wolcott honored seniors from the basketball team, cheerleaders and dance team, then jumped out to a 14-11 lead over Wilby after one quarter. An even second quarter made the score 28-25 at halftime. The Wildcats pulled within a point, 42-41, after three quarters.
Mayo's heroics mean that both Wilby and Wolcott are in a win or stay home game in their regular season finales. The Wildcats host Seymour on Thursday night at 7 o'clock. The Eagles are scheduled to start an hour earlier on Thursday at Ansonia.

GALLERY: Click here to see my photos from the game.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bristol Central boys beat Eastern, deny rival a state tournament berth

Logo credit: Bristol Central principal Twitter account
Bristol Central boys basketball edged out Eastern 46-42 on Monday night inside a packed Thomas A. Monahan Gymnasium.
The game's outcome had a much different effect on both sides: The Rams finished the regular season with a 16-4 record, a spot in the CCC Tournament, and a high ranking in Division II. The Lancers ended the season 7-13, one win shy of a state tournament berth.
In a typical game between these Mum City rivals, it was closely contested and low scoring. Eastern gave the effort you would expect from a Bunty Ray team, but it wasn't enough. Central's Jaekwon Spencer led all scorers with 20 points. The Rams had a 14-game winning streak snapped last Thursday by Wethersfield, but they were able to bounce back with a win over the Lancers.
Jake Lafferty led a balanced Eastern attack with 10 points. The Lancers led 13-10 after one quarter, then the Rams fought to a 21-21 tie at the half. Central led 33-32 after three quarters and was able to pull away just enough to win.
Eastern made a strong push to earn a state tournament berth, but injuries helped conspire to keep the Lancers out.
Central has the postseason ahead, and it will have good seeds in both the CCC and Division II state tournaments.

Thoughts on Monday's Sacred Heart-Holy Cross NVL semifinal

Sacred Heart's Treasure Coleman led all scorers with 26 points in Monday's NVL semifinal.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
No. 4 Sacred Heart ran away with a 54-42 win over No. 1 Holy Cross in the NVL girls basketball tournament semifinals on Monday night at Kennedy High School.
It was a full house inside Jack Taglia Gymnasium, and those supporting the Maroon and Gold were treated to a great performance by the Hearts. Sacred Heart's effort began and ended with its three-headed attack of Treasure Coleman (game-high 26 points), Aamya Rivera (12) and Mikayla Mobley (11). The trio led the offense, and they harassed the guards of the Crusaders.
Inside, it was a team effort against Holy Cross standouts Aiyana Ward (14 points) and Meah Austin (9). The Crusaders couldn't get their outside shots to fall, so once the Hearts established a nice lead, they packed their zone deep into the paint. Hayley Tucker, Jenna Madigan, Trista Caron and Nevaeh Jones all took turns defending Ward and Austin.
Any comeback effort for Holy Cross was delivered a major blow when Austin had to leave the game with 7:11 left in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. Austin was down for several minutes and was slowly helped off the court. Hopefully the senior forward will be OK.
Sacred Heart faces Naugatuck on Wednesday night in a matchup of first-time NVL finalists. That game is also at Kennedy.

For a full recap of the Sacred Heart-Holy Cross semifinal, read my story on The Zone website.

Joe Palladino took video for The Zone. Go here to see that video.

And finally, I took photos during the game. You can view those here.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

GIRLS NVL TOURNEY: Big wins for Wolcott, Sacred Heart, Holy Cross

The first round of the NVL girls basketball tournament took place Saturday at Holy Cross High School, and Wolcott had the biggest win.
The seventh-seeded Eagles took down second-seeded St. Paul 49-39 behind a monster 31 point-performance from Raven Cody. Sam Hickey added eight points for Wolcott, which jumped out to an 11-4 lead after one quarter. After an even second quarter, the Eagles claimed a 14-7 advantage in the third quarter to push the lead to 14 points.
Jade Udoh had nine points and Lindsey O'Bright added eight for the Falcons, who have been snake-bit by injuries. Emma Cretella was the latest to go down for St. Paul.
Fourth-seeded Sacred Heart erupted for a 71-49 victory over fifth-seeded Seymour. Treasure Coleman led the Hearts with 20 points, but she had plenty of help from her teammates. Hayley Tucker scored 14 points, Mikayla Mobley added 12, Aamya Rivera chipped in 11 and Jenna Madigan tallied seven. The Hearts used a monster second quarter (19-4) to take the game over. Seymour did outscore Sacred Heart by 10 in the third quarter, but a 21-7 fourth quarter by the Hearts again extended the lead.
Top-seeded host Holy Cross kept eighth-seeded WCA at bay and took a 53-37 victory. The Crusaders led 25-16 at the half, then extended the lead in the second half. Meah Austin had 21 points, Aiyana Ward tallied 10 and Ja'Lin Waters added eight. There was also five points apiece from Julia Mecca and Allie Brown.
No. 6 Crosby couldn't catch up with a red-hot No. 3 Naugatuck and lost 50-38. Tiahna Pulliam had 16 points and Gloria Vergeli added 10 for the Bulldogs. Erica Soares and Shyan Perez each had six points.

Semifinals on Monday at Kennedy
No. 7 Wolcott faces No. 3 Naugatuck in the first game at 5 p.m. The Eagles lost 37-30 to the Greyhounds at home this past week.
After All-NVL honorees are recognized, No. 1 Holy Cross and No. 4 Sacred Heart renew acquaintances at 7 p.m. The Crusaders won both matchups in the regular season.

Trelli wins state title in final competition on home mat; Rams finish 7th as team in Class L

Chris Trelli made his last competition on a Bristol Central mat count,
winning the Class L 120-pound state championship.
(Photo credit: Bristol Central principal Twitter account)
There was only one way for senior Chris Trelli to end his time wrestling on the mats at Bristol Central High School, and that was by winning a state title.
Trelli delivered with a 12-4 major decision against New Milford's Brandon Leonard in the 120-pound final during the Class L state championship meet inside the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium. Trelli ran his record to 33-6, and he did it in front of his home fans.
Trelli had a first round bye, then convincingly beat Notre Dame-West Haven's Jeff Bracale by technical fall, 18-3. The next round brought a high-scoring technical fall of 27-12 against Middletown's Tim Pawlak. 
In the semifinal, Trelli faced Bristol Eastern's Thomas Nichols. Trelli claimed victory by fall with seven seconds left in the match to advance to the final.
Trelli began the scoring in the final with a takedown of Leonard in the first period. Trelli nearly had a pin of Leonard 14 seconds into the second period. Leonard scored two escapes, but another Trelli takedown gave the Central senior a 6-2 lead after two periods. 
Trelli struck first in the third period with a takedown, then added another after a Leonard escape. Leonard had a final escape, but Trelli took him down again to go up 12-4. It was Trelli doing what he does, being a technically strong wrestler in control of the match.

Central finishes seventh overall
The Rams scored 102.5 team points, just four off of sixth place Wethersfield's 106.5. Trelli was the lone winner, and Central also had a third place and two fifth place finishers.
Mike Guzman was third at 220 for the Rams. Damian Mahaffy (170) and John Duncan (285) each placed fifth in their respective weight classes.
The medal-winners qualified for the State Open, which is this coming Friday and Saturday at New Haven's Floyd Little Athletic Center.

TWICE AS NICE: Bristol Eastern wrestling repeats as Class L champs

Logo from Bristol Eastern athletics Twitter account
Moving up the Class L wrestling finals due to an impending snowstorm didn't slow down Bristol Eastern on Saturday.
As a matter of fact, nothing did.
The Lancers had four individual state champions on the way to their second straight team title. Eastern finished first with 231 points, well ahead of second place Xavier's 196.5 and third place New Milford's 173.
Leonardo Fernandez (145 pounds), Justin Marshall (152), Mikey Barrett (160) and Trinidad Gonzalez (195) won individual state titles for the Lancers. Fernandez won a 10-8 decision over New Canaan's Nate Sibbett. Marshall claimed a 4-3 decision over Amity's Matthew Rothman. Barrett took a 9-1 major decision over Wethersfield's Alec Arnold. Gonzalez shutout Hall's Justin Searls with a 7-0 decision.
Eastern also had two second place finishes, plus one third, one fourth and one fifth. The Lancers wound up with nine medal winners, and while it wasn't the most, it was more than enough for victory.
Bryce Beebe (106) and Jordon Champagne (113) took second place. Thomas Nichols was third at 120, Carson Sassu finished fourth at 126 and Hidekel Mangual placed fifth at 220.
For Eastern's seniors, there could be no better way to close out their time together as a team than with a second straight Class L state title.
Eastern's nine place winners have qualified for the State Open, which takes place at New Haven's Floyd Little Athletic Center this coming Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

HIGH 5 OF THE WEEK: Martin, Dantino part of NE-10 success for SCSU swimming and diving

Martin (SCSU athletics)
The Southern Connecticut State University women's swimming and diving team captured its second straight Northeast-10 championship and 12th in program history.
The men wrapped up their 13th championship, making it a clean sweep for the Owls.
What do the two teams have in common? Each had a local influence help achieve victory.
For the women, it was junior Lilly Martin, a former standout at St. Paul. She was one of four Owls to score points in the 200-yard breaststroke, and she had the best finish in fourth place. Martin finished the race in 2:25.03. 
(Note: Teammate Meaghan Spagnolo of Waterbury was eighth in the same event).
Martin was also part of the winning 400 medley relay team. She is part of the 2017 relay that owns the Northeast-10 record for the event. 
Martin was fifth in the 100 breaststroke and seventh in the 400 IM.
Dantino (SCSU athletics)

For the men, it was sophomore Drew Dantino, who hails from Sacred Heart. Dantino was solid for the Owls in the breaststroke events. He finished third in the 200 breaststroke and took fourth in the 100 breaststroke. Dantino finished the 200 breaststroke in 2:10.04 and completed the 100 breaststroke in 59.01 seconds.
Dantino also swam in the 200 and 400 medley relays and the 200 IM.
It was a double-banner effort for SCSU, and Martin and Dantino got to be right in the middle of it.

Knox (ECSU athletics)
Haley Knox, Eastern Connecticut State University
indoor track and field

The junior has experienced plenty of team success both with the Warriors and at Bristol Central in high school, and the winning continued this past weekend.
Knox teamed up with Samantha McKosky, Christina Gosselin and Laura Bresson to finish first in the New England Alliance 4x800-meter relay. The relay took the top spot in 10:07.94.
Knox also picked up a second place finish in the 1000 meters. She missed her program record by quarter-second, and she was less than a second behind the winner.
The event, held at the Providence Career and Technical Academy, was called the New England Alliance/Little East Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Next up for Knox and ECSU is the New England Division III Championships this weekend.

Jacob Collins, Eastern Connecticut State University basketball
Collins (ECSU athletics)

This senior from Bristol Central dealt with nagging injuries before his second full season with the Warriors.
In the last two games, Collins has had the chance to show what he can do, and he played a role in the clinching of a fifth straight Little East regular season title for ECSU. 
In wins over Plymouth State, Trinity and Keene State, Collins had nine, eight and seven points in double-digit minutes off the bench. 
Collins scored 17 points in the second half and overtime and was 8-of-10 shooting in a 101-99 loss to UMass-Dartmouth on Feb. 10. He also tallied three rebounds and two blocks in that game.
On Wednesday night at Western Connecticut State, Collins played 16 minutes and scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting in a 106-82 victory. He also had four rebounds, two steals and one assist.
Coach Bill Geitner had this to say about Collins before the season:
"A very god shooting forward, Jake has had some nagging injuries this preseason but we expect him to have a good year."
Collins has been getting good minutes off the bench, and he has delivered for the Warriors over the past two games. The former Bristol Central standout could become a big factor off the bench for ECSU in the postseason.

Wnuk (ECSU athletics)
Diana Wnuk, Eastern Connecticut State University basketball
The former Bristol Eastern standout got a chance to start for the first time in her career last Saturday, and the freshman delivered on the backboards for the Warriors.
Wnuk played 34 minutes in the 78-62 loss to UMass-Dartmouth, and she grabbed 10 rebounds and one steal. The minutes and rebounds were both career-highs for Wnuk.
Earlier this year, Wnuk showed her athleticism in back-to-back games. She notched three steals against Connecticut College on Jan. 30, then logged two more against UMass-Boston on Feb. 3. 
Wnuk has had a steal in five straight games for ECSU.

Statistics and information compiled from the team website of each athlete.

Wolcott girls have quick turnaround to season finale after home loss

Wolcott girls basketball will look to regain momentum in their season finale tonight
at Kaynor Tech. The Eagles lost 37-30 at home to Naugatuck on Wednesday night.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Wolcott girls basketball team will need to get Wednesday night's 37-30 home loss to Naugatuck out of their minds quickly.
The Eagles (10-9) close the regular season at Kaynor Tech tonight at 6 o'clock. Wolcott will be the No. 7 seed in the NVL Tournament, which begins Saturday with quarterfinal games at Holy Cross High School. The Eagles will play second-seeded St. Paul.
Wolcott had a rough night offensively Wednesday, especially in the third quarter where Naugatuck put the game away. Raven Cody and Alayna Greene each scored seven points for the Eagles. Freshman Sam Riviezzo added four points.
It was Senior Night for Cody, Greene, Jenna Hoban, Morgan Kiely and Sam Hickey. Wolcott will look for a better result tonight against Kaynor Tech, and seek to build good momentum entering the postseason.

PHOTOS: Click here to see images from the second half of the game.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Holy Cross boys swimming and diving having another strong season

The NVL knows how good Holy Cross boys swimming and diving has been this season.
It's likely that Class S is also on alert as the postseason approaches.
The Crusaders are undefeated in the NVL, and they boast a 11-2-1 record overall. The losses were to Class L Amity and Class M Daniel Hand, and the tie came against Class LL Cheshire. For reference about the recent success of those three programs, Cheshire was third in Class LL, Hand was third in M, and Amity fourth in L.
Holy Cross has faced strong competition outside the NVL. That competition continues as the Crusaders close the regular season Thursday at defending Class M champion Weston at 4:30 p.m. Holy Cross finished as Class S runner-up to Weston in 2015 and 2016.
In Holy Cross' most recent meet on Feb. 6, the Crusaders beat Sacred Heart 96-81 at Kennedy High School. Chris Fryer had individual wins in the 200-yard IM and 100 free. Other individual victories came from Sam Mason in the 50 freestyle, Madison Smith in diving, John Tucker in the 100 butterfly and Lucas Racevicius in the 500 freestyle.
Holy Cross also won the 200 medley (Luciano D'Amelio, Nick Galasso, Adam Fernandes, Tom Pompeii) and 200 freestyle (Tucker, Ben Bowler, Alex Ford, Mason) relays.
After Weston, the postseason -- and a hunt for championship hardware -- begins for Holy Cross.

BOYS HOOP NOTES: Kaynor Tech, Wolcott, Bristol Eastern and Wilby fighting for tourney berths

Kaynor Tech and Wilby are both fighting for berths in the upcoming boys basketball state
tournaments. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file)
It's coming down to the wire for the Kaynor Tech, Wolcott, Bristol Eastern and Wilby boys basketball teams.
All four still have a chance at making the state tournament with a losing record, but there is work to be done.
Kaynor Tech sits at 7-9 and has four games left to play. The Panthers need one win to reach the Division IV state tournament. Kaynor has games against Kennedy (5-12) on Friday, Seymour (8-8) on Feb. 20 and Woodland (7-10) on Feb. 22. There is also a game against Amistad (8-6) that needs to be rescheduled. The bad news for the Panthers is that the Kennedy game on Friday is the only one of the four they will play at home.
At 7-10, Wolcott is in the second-best position given it needs one win with three games left to play. The Eagles have a tough game tonight at Naugatuck (10-7). On Feb. 20, Wolcott meets up with another team challenging for a state tournament spot, Wilby. The Wildcats are 6-11 and need two wins in their final three games to get in. The Wolcott-Wilby game is a home contest for Wolcott.
The Eagles finish the regular season on Feb. 22 at Ansonia (4-13). Wolcott is in Division III.
Wilby's final three games are against WCA (11-6, tonight at WCA), Wolcott on Feb. 20, and home against Seymour (8-8) on Feb. 22. The Wildcats will attempt to get a spot in the Division II state tournament.
Bristol Eastern is 7-11 and needs one win in its final two games to qualify for the Division III state tournament. Neither game will be easy. The Lancers play at New Britain (13-5) on Friday. The regular season finale is home on Feb. 19 against city rival Bristol Central (15-3). A win in either game, however, puts Eastern in the state tournament.