East Catholic Can’t Overcome Injuries in Loss to Bloomfield

 

MANCHESTER-The East Catholic boys basketball team knew it would be extremely challenging to beat undefeated Bloomfield without the injured Mark Carbone and Mike McGuirl, the Eagles top two scorers. It put forth a valiant effort Friday night, giving maximum effort all four quarters and shutting down the Warhawks offense at times. Ultimately however, the player’s absence was too hard to overcome against one of the state’s top teams.

Bloomfield defeated East Catholic 58-45, handing the Eagles their first loss of the season after seven wins. The Warhawks (8-0) rushed out to a large lead early and were comfortably in control for much of the game before East Catholic attempted to mount a furious comeback in the fourth quarter.

While the absence of Carbone and McGuirl was visible in a number of areas, ball handling was probably the most crucial. The Eagles struggled to both pass and control it and were forced into 24 turnovers, many of which led to Bloomfield points.

“We had many young kids on the floor and they showed a lot of heart and fight,” head coach Luke Reilly said.  “I was proud of the way they played. We just needed to execute and rebound a little bit better and play smarter.”

Freshman Joey Reilly, Luke’s nephew, played outstanding for East Catholic, scoring 21 points and hitting baskets at times when his team desperately needed them. Bloomfield’s depth was well on display, as Dexter Lawson scored 13 points, Jordan Pruitt 12 and Mark Reaves Jr. 10. Mookie Lester, the Eagles third-leading scorer, was silenced by Bloomfield, getting just three points.

Bloomfield started the game off on fire, scoring the first 13 points, a run that included three-pointers by Reaves, Lawson and Pruitt. It ended the first quarter with a 19-8 lead. During the quarter, the Warhawks were able to get open shots by passing the ball well and relentlessly pressuring ball-handlers, forcing East Catholic into turnovers and poor shots. Reilly was a lone bright spot for the Eagles, scoring six points.

“There were a few possessions in the first where we failed to convert on baskets and it led to four-point swings,” Coach Reilly said.

While the Eagles continued to be sloppy with the ball in the second, it tightened up on defense after allowing Bloomfield to score its first six points and entered the half trailing 31-19. They forced the Warhawks into a handful of turnovers and missed shots near the basket. This helped result in better shots for East Catholic, with Reilly scoring six of the team’s 11 points.

“I came out here trying to be aggressive and confident and my teammates did a great job of getting me good shots,” Joey Reilly said.

After Bloomfield took a 37-20 lead early in the third, the game appeared in danger of becoming a blowout. The Eagles put those ideas to sleep however, as good ball movement led to consecutive three-pointers by Reilly and the defense ramped up its pressure and forced poor shots. Unfortunately, East Catholic missed a series of open looks, and the Warhawks ended the quarter with a 41-28 lead.

The Eagles continued to fight till the end in the fourth, and were rewarded with their best quarter of offense. They finally cut Bloomfield’s lead to single digits early on with baskets by Reilly and sophomore Zach Zbin. The Warhawks maintained their composure and pressured East Catholic into turnovers off poor passes, leading to baskets by Josh Moore-Henry and Reaves and a 49-35 lead with 4:32 remaining. Freshman Josh Menard and Lester followed with threes, and the team did get as close as eight on sophomore Will Pineo’s put-back with 1:01 left. Bloomfield sealed the victory by making five free throws down the stretch.

Joey Reilly was very pleased with the effort his team gave despite its obstacles.

“We fought hard and were able to stay focused and overcome their traps at times,” he said. “I just wish we could have got the win.”

Carbone, a senior, was out with an injured knee but is expected to be back for next Friday’s game at East Hartford. McGuirl, a junior, suffered multiple facial fractures on a foul during last Friday’s game with Tolland. He was hit in the face on an attempted block by Andrew Jaworski, but no flagrant foul was called. It is uncertain whether McGuirl will return in 2016. Reilly called it the worst foul he’s seen  during his 29 years in the game.

“Bloomfield was great tonight,” he said. “We knew we had to play an almost perfect game and we couldn’t. Maybe there will be a next time, and I know we’ll be better off for it.”

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