Mike Cardillo: Hillhouse leaving no doubt caps day of madness
UNCASVILLE -- It was Mohegan Madness on Saturday.
First, Granby Memorial erased a 21-point third-quarter deficit to beat Weaver in double overtime to decide the Class S boys spoils before it was even noon.
A little bit later, Woodstock Academy came out of nowhere -- OK, the state's "Quiet Corner" -- to stun Trinity Catholic in the Class L final.
The Centaurs' surprising triumph was quickly forgotten, thanks to the unbelievable buzzer-beater by Mercy's Maria Weselyj, which stunned Lauralton Hall in the Class LL girls final.
When you add it all up, it equaled 12 hours of pure basketball bliss at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The way the day had gone to that point, who would have guessed the nightcap would turn out to be an anticlimactic affair for the nearly 10,000 fans in attendance?
It didn't take long for Round IV between the top two boys' basketball teams in the state, Hillhouse and Fairfield Prep, to affirm who was the No. 1 team. The Academics left no doubt via their 52-42 victory.
Hillhouse, as it did all year, used its unrelenting defense to make the 10-point margin of victory feel more like 20 as it kept Prep at arm's length nearly the entire 32 minutes.
"Over the stretch of four games, they were the better team," Fairfield Prep coach Leo Redgate said. "I would give the credit 100 percent to their defense."
How good was the Academics' defense?
"Even though we beat them three times, we wanted to make a statement: It was not even close that we were the best team," Anderson said.
In the four games played between the SCC finalists, neither side cracked the 60-point barrier. The Academics were also the only team with the size and strength to handle the Jesuits' 7-foot shot-blocking force, Paschal Chukwu.
The two teams, which will probably finish Nos. 1 and 2 in the state poll this week, were the only even matchup for each other this winter. Prep's three losses were at the hands of Hillhouse, while the only thing that kept the Academics from a perfect season was a Jesuits' victory in February at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
"We've played four games, they've won three," Redgate said. "If we played 10, would we only win one or two? No."
The manner in which the previous five championship games unfolded Saturday at the Mohegan Sun, all signs pointed toward a memorable Class LL clash to close the day. That didn't happen.
However, some of the afternoon's madcap action did rub off on Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton, who said Mercy's last-second win gave him a good feeling, since Tigers coach Tim Kohs won his first title after losing the previous three seasons. Sutton was an assistant when Hillhouse lost to Central in the 2010 Class LL final and was in charge when the Academics fell to St. Joseph in last year's championship game.
"It was kind of that omen," Sutton said. "With coach Kohs being an SCC guy, I wanted him to win and get the monkey off of his back. The last two trips I was here, we took a loss. Today, it was like we would get the monkey off our backs."
And Hillhouse did just that, bringing a close to a day anyone involved in Connecticut high school basketball won't soon forget.