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McKnight, St. Joseph edge Central

Updated 12:54 am, Friday, February 8, 2013

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  • St. Joseph's #11 Quincy McNight lays up the ball unopposed for two points, during boys basketball action against Central in Trumbull, Conn. on Thursday February 7, 2013. Photo: Christian Abraham / Connecticut Post
    St. Joseph's #11 Quincy McNight lays up the ball unopposed for two points, during boys basketball action against Central in Trumbull, Conn. on Thursday February 7, 2013. Photo: Christian Abraham

 

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TRUMBULL -- Call this one the flurry before the storm.

On the eve of a potentially historic winter storm to hit Connecticut, Central and St. Joseph brought out the best in each other in 32 minutes of high-paced, back-and-forth, breathless basketball.

The Cadets looked to be on their way to another double-digit romp, only for the Hilltoppers to push the game right to the final whistle -- an 85-81 win for St. Joseph. The final points for the Cadets came on a dunk by Quincy McKnight with 15 seconds left, a fitting capper for his career-high 31 points.

"Central is good. We'll see them again. They kept pushing us," McKnight said. "It tells you just how our team has heart. That's what we've preached all year, that we don't back down to anybody."

This one went from about 0 to 60 mph in a blink of an eye, as the teams traded baskets in the first.

St. Joseph (15-1, 13-1 FCIAC) put its foot on the gas in the second quarter behind a blinding performance by McKnight. With 5:19 left in the second, he'd scored 19 points. He finished the half with 21 -- missing only one shot from the floor.

Jumpers, slicing drives to the lane, underhand scoops, whatever McKnight tried in the first half, it worked as St. Joseph appeared unstoppable in a three-minute stretch.

In that time, St. Joseph built a 15-point lead, going ahead 47-32 on a jumper by Raekwon Reid.

Central, unlike all other opponents St. Joseph has built a lead against, never went away.

Shaquan Bretoux, Marcus Blackwell, Tyler Ancrum and company made sure of that.

"I'm as proud as I've been in defeat, maybe even in a state championship. They fought back," Central coach Barry McLeod said. "We're not backing down. We're down 13, 10, we're not going anywhere. We're here for the duration."

Down 15, Central responded with an 8-0 run finished on a drive by Bretoux (team-high 23 points). St. Joseph still led 50-40 at the half, with Jake Pelletier nailing a 3-pointer before time expired for the Cadets.

The Cadets were sharp from 3-point range -- especially Jon Dzurenda (20 points) -- finishing 7-for-10 as a team.

"Usually we get a cushion and we get a chance to build it," St. Joseph coach Chris Watts said. "Again, it shows a lot about Tyler Ancrum and his supporting cast. It shows a lot about Coach McLeod. As a player, he wasn't a quitter."

McKnight, in foul trouble, seemed to run out of gas in the second half as Central clawed its way back steadily throughout the third and fourth quarters.

Blackwell led the charge in the third, scoring nine of his 19 points then, going in under the boards and from 3-point range.

By the start of the fourth, the Cadets' lead had shrunk to three points, with Bretoux making it 70-67 on a 3-point play which gave McKnight his fourth foul with over seven minutes remaining.

Trailing 76-75 late in the fourth, Central (11-4, 11-4) had a chance to go ahead, only to miss three times underneath the basket from close. Eventually St. Joseph's Erick Langston got the rebound. Pelletier went in for a layup on the other end and missed, but Langston followed the play and converted the miss.

Down 78-77 after a pair of free throws by Bretoux, Central again had the ball with a chance to take the lead, only for Pelletier to poke the ball away from Ancrum near midcourt. Pelletier was fouled and hit both shots.

"Ancrum might be the best ball-handler in the state," McLeod said. "I'm not sure what happened on the tip-away, but I had one more timeout and I was toying with using it to make sure he knew what he was doing and he got the ball knocked away from him."

Central found another answer on a layup by Bretoux, but St. Joseph broke the pressure and Dzurenda converted a 3-point play to put the Cadets ahead 83-79 with only 28 seconds left.

"I think we'll see them again later on. We'll get them back for sure," Central center Orhan Cecunjanin said.

"We knew we'd come back. We play hard every night. We come out every night to win."

mcardillo@ctpost.com; @CTPostCardillo

CENTRAL (11-4, 11-4 FCIAC)

Orhan Cecunjanin 5 0-0 10 Shaquan Bretoux 7 9-10 23 Antwan Pettway 1 0-0 2 Marcus Blackwell 8 1-1 19 Tyler Ancrum 8 2-3 19 Ricky Grant 2 6-8 10 Dyshon Pullam 0 0-0 0 Totals: 31 16-22 81

ST. JOSEPH (15-1, 13-1)

Jake Pelletier 3 2-2 10 Jon Dzurenda 7 3-3 20 Quincy McKnight 14 2-2 31 Denzel Moscova 0 0-0 0 Raekwon Reid 3 3-4 9 Erick Langston 6 0-0 13 Steve Hashemi 1 0-0 2 Totals: 34 10-11 85

CENTRAL 26 14 20 21--81

ST. JOSEPH 25 25 18 17--85

3-pointers: C--Blackwell 2, Ancrum; SJ--Pelletier 2, Dzurenda 3, McKnight, Langston

Technical fouls: C--bench