Sunday, March 18, 2018

ANALYSIS: Hearts need quick start against Lancers in Division I final

Isiah Gaiter and Sacred Heart would love to be all smiles again after tonight's Division I
state final against Notre Dame-Fairfield. That would mean a fifth straight championship
for the Hearts. Of course, the Lancers were be a determined bunch out for revenge
and their first state title. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file)
The day of the Division I boys basketball state final is finally upon us.
Tonight at 6 o'clock at Mohegan Sun Arena, No. 4 Sacred Heart (24-2) goes for a fifth straight state final against undefeated No. 2 Notre Dame-Fairfield (26-0), a team in search of its first championship.
The Hearts can make history, but the Lancers are also motivated by history, and revenge. Notre Dame-Fairfield was soundly defeated by Sacred Heart in the 2016 Class M and 2017 Class L championship games. The Lancers don't want to see their undefeated season close with another loss on the biggest stage.
Expect Notre Dame-Fairfield to come out with a whole lot of fire and determination in this game tonight. Anything less would be unacceptable for the Lancers and head coach Chris Watts, given what he and his players said at Friday's luncheon.
Sacred Heart, which rallied for a win in the final minutes against Windsor after being down as much as 16 points, needs to be ready for that opening punch. A slow start would not be good for the Hearts against the Lancers.
Where All-State duo Isiah Gaiter and Raheem Solomon have gone, so does Sacred Heart. Timely contributions from senior Andre Anderson, the senior Francisco twins Noah and Zach, along with freshmen Connor Tierney and Caleb Sampson, would be big tonight. Those contributions need to come on the offensive and defensive ends. A full effort is necessary tonight for a fifth straight championship.
Speaking of defense, Sacred Heart needs to put a padlock on Josh Reaves, who is averaging 25 points per game in the state tournament. Of course, don't forget about senior speedster Tyler Bourne, who has had some monster games this season.
This will be the biggest state final exam Sacred Heart has faced in the last five seasons. If the Hearts have what it takes, and it will take plenty of effort and guts, they will pass and take a spot in history next to Cromwell and Warren Harding, the other schools in the state that have won five straight finals.
This game should be awesome. I will be covering it for The Hoop Zone along with Joe Palladino, but I won't shortchange you on here. Expect plenty of stuff here in the near future.

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