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BASKETBALL: East Catholic comeback, Hamden perfection highlight Championship Weekend at the Sun

UNCASVILLE — The East Catholic boys and Hamden girls held onto their No. 1 rankings in the state basketball polls after winning championships this weekend at Mohegan Sun Arena.

East Catholic, which went unbeaten against Connecticut competition, rallied to beat rival Northwest Catholic 49-47 in the Division I boys final, while Hamden completed a perfect season with a 63-48 victory over Fairfield Ludlowe in the Class LL girls final.

Both contests were the marquee matchups in the 10-game championship slate that spanned two days and nights at Mohegan Sun.

The Class LL girls final pitted two undefeated teams. Top-seeded Hamden, in beating No. 2 Ludlowe, finished 27-0 and became only the second basketball team in Southern Connecticut Conference history to compile a perfect season. (The Guilford girls were 27-0 in 2004.)

Against Ludlowe, the Green Dragons put the showdown of unbeatens to early rout, extending a 12-4 first-quarter lead to 32-14 by the break. Hamden’s Leah Philpotts had a game-high 28 points.

The state title was the first for the Green Dragons, who are coached by Southington native Amanda Forcucci.

East Catholic, meanwhile, claimed its third straight title and eighth overall, but had to come from way behind to do it. Northwest Catholic got out to a 22-8 lead in the first quarter and led 30-18 at the half.

The Eagles charged back in the third quarter with a 17-2 run to take their first lead, 35-34.

A 3-pointer by Gianni Mirabello in the waning seconds of the frame put Northwest back on top, 37-35, but EC’s James Jones opened the fourth with a go-ahead trey for East.

The Eagles maintained a narrow edge until, with 2:08 to go, Jack Nieradko nailed a 3-pointer to give Northwest its final lead.

East Catholic regained it for good with 55 seconds left, with Jones converting a layup off a Samson Reilly steal.

Jones led all scorers with 24 points. London Jemison had 23 for Northwest.

In other games, Waterbury Career Academy, the team that ended the state championship dreams of Platt in the Division III semifinals, went on to claim the crown by defeating top-seeded Bloomfield 74-58.

Down 46-42 after three quarters, the No. 2 Spartans blew the Warhawks away 32-12 in the fourth.

Andrew Williams was huge for WCA, piling up 36 points and pulling down 18 rebounds. Sonny Pierce added 17 points. Jaysean Williams led Bloomfield with 22 points. 

It was the first state title for WCA, which is only in its eighth year of existence. Bloomfield was a reigning state champ, having won Division IV in 2022.

Here are highlights from the weekend’s other state finals.

St. Bernard 63, Staples 50: The top-seeded Saints claimed their first state crown since the back-to-back title years of 1981 and 1982 by beating the No. 7 Wreckers in Division II.

St. Bernard put the game away by outscoring Staples 19-11 in the third quarter to extend a 19-15 halftime lead to 48-26.

The Saints had four players in double figures, led by Cedrick Similien’s game-high 21. Amare Marshall added 15.

Chris Zajac (12) and Samson Clachko (10) were in double figures for Staples.

Cromwell 53, Ellington 46: Coach John Pinone and the top-seeded Panthers claimed the 10th state title in program history with the Division IV victory over No. 3 Ellington.

Cromwell didn’t get going until the second half. After trailing 17-8 in the first quarter and 21-16 at halftime, the Panthers surged ahead with a 16-7 third quarter, closing the frame on a 7-0 run and extending it to 10-0 in the opening minute of the fourth.

Cromwell’s Victor Payne and Ellington’s Cody Murphy both scored 23 points. Jake Salafia added 11 for the winners.

Windsor Locks 69, Shepaug 58: The top-seeded Raiders reeled in their first banner since 2001 by outscoring No. 6 Shepaug 40-27 after halftime in the Division V final.

Sincere Monroe (22 points) and Evan Courtney (18) led Windsor Locks. Phillip Ostrosky (17) and Reed Woerner (13) were top scorers for Shepaug.

E.O. Smith 58, Pomperaug 46: In an all-Lady Panthers matchup in Class L, E.O. Smith won its first state title in three tries by establishing a 21-14 lead in the opening quarter.

No. 3 E.O. Smith got 21 points and 8 rebounds from Madison Hughes. Jill Dingler (14 points) and Paige Raynor (13) were also in double figures.

Claudia Schneider tallied a game-high 23 points for No. 1 Pomperaug. 

New London 57, Mercy 47: The No. 6 Whalers collected their third title by defeating the No. 4 Tigers in Class MM. New London defeated No. 3 Sheehan in the quarterfinals en route to the final.

Against Mercy, the Whalers got a monster game out of Serenity Lancaster. The 6-foot-2 sophomore scored a game-high 24 points, pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds and blocked a game-high six shots.

The Dudley sisters, Nyarah (14 points) and Nalyce (13), were also in double figures for New London.

Nyarah Dudley hit a 3-pointer with 4½ minutes to play that extended a 46-43 lead to 49-43. The trey triggered a game-ending 11-4 run for New London.

Ava Giansiracusa (17) and Sophie Hedge (16) led the Tigers.

East Hampton 31, Valley Regional 29: Jacquelyn Russell’s conversion in the paint off a feed from Olivia Demartino with 1:55 to play proved to be game-winning basket in this all-Shoreline Conference Class M final, which opened the weekend on Saturday morning.

Russell finished with 10 points and Liana Salamone posted a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds as top-seeded East Hampton laid claim to its first state crown since 1980.

Olivia Cunningham had a team-high 10 points for No. 3 Valley.

Northwest Catholic 74, Kolbe Cathedral 65: With her mom Rebecca Lobo looking on from the stands, Maeve Rushin and her Northwest Catholic teammates went on a 21-2 tear over the last 5½ minutes of the third quarter to turn a 43-33 deficit into a 54-45 lead in the Class S final.

Northwest, the No. 10 seed, got 25 points and 12 rebounds from Abby Casper, 24 points and 10 assists from Maeve Staunton, and 10 points and 13 rebounds from Rushin.

Kolbe, the No. 16 seed, got 19 points apiece from Skyler Miller and Amaris Timmons.


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