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Friday, March 7, 2008

A phenomenal week of basketball

I've seen plenty of good games during my six years, none better than the finals in 2003 when we had two buzzer-beaters, an amazing Trinity Catholic team tested in the fourth quarter by Kolbe Cathedral and Hye winning its first state championship.

But this was a pretty good opening week to the state tournament, although those residing in the Elm City probably won't agree. The games, or their magnitude, got better as the week went along:

Monday: No. 29 seed Hand-Madison dusts Notre Dame-Fairfield. First-year head coach Frank Rossi gets some serious kudos here. The Tigers broke Notre Dame's full-court pressure with ease and got easy baskets. Notre Dame also had its worst shooting effort of the year, a trend you will see in the other games I saw this week.

Tuesday: Hillhouse is eliminated in the opening round at home by Fairfield Prep. Granted, this was not anything like the Hillhouse teams that won consecutive state championships, but losing in the first round? Unacceptable.
The Academics had a difficult time scoring (three points in the second quarter) and a difficult time handling Prep point guard Tavonne Reid. Now the Jesuits are in the Class LL quarterfinals Monday - and Hillhouse needs to regroup.

Wednesday: Wilbur Cross survives against Wilby to remain undefeated. Wilby brought a great crowd down from Waterbury and the Wildcats were fearless. Cross had just three points in the second quarter (notice a trend here) and had to come from behind. Markus Wright had 16 of his 20 points in a dominat fourth quarter for the senior.

Thursday: I'll never forget Notre Dame's student section emptying out as the buzzer sounded to engulf their superstar Greg Mangano. And well they should: Mangano had 43 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots as Notre Dame beat Holy Cross in the Class LL second round to go undefeated at home for the season. Yes, that bandbox of a gymnasium ND has is a serious home-court advantage. Too bad they can't have that advantage against Trinity Catholic on Monday.

Friday: Lyman Hall pulls the stunner of the entire state tournament, beating the last of the state's unbeatens, Wilbur Cross, in the Class L quarterfinals at Southington High. Amazingly, Lyman Hall, 1-19 a year ago, is in the semifinals.
Credit has to go to head coach Mike Conner and those kids. They outworked and outplayed Cross, period. Granted, the shots didn't fall (three points in the second quarter YET AGAIN), but the team played like one that assumed it would win after dusting Lyman Hall by 25 in the SCC tournament semifinals two weeks ago.
It looks even worse for Cross that they lost to a team which had its top player, point guard Zach Russo, play only sparingly because of a fractured right wrist. I wasn't around for the 2000 loss to Bridgeport Central but was there for that 2003 buzzer beater I referred to earlier in the Class L finals to Northwest Catholic.
This has to be the worst of the three and the hurt will last for quite awhile. This Cross team was not as good as either 2000 or 2003, but this was still not a good loss. Which leads me to believe if head coach Jim Reynolds, one of the sports' great gentlemen, will ever get a better shot to win a state championship.

I can only hope next week's games are anearly as exciting as these five. See you Monday at Fairfield Ludlowe for Trinity vs. Notre Dame.

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