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East Catholic Defeats Middletown in Class L State Championship Game - TheSportsDept.com

East Catholic Defeats Middletown in Class L State Championship Game

By Danny Atkinson

UNCASVILLE –Trust. That was the word East Catholic-Manchester coach Luke Reilly asked his players to embrace as the Eagles prepared for their CIAC Class L boys basketball tournament championship matchup with Middletown.

Trust each other – Reilly told his team – and great things will happen.

Reilly’s words proved prophetic. The fourth seeded Eagles rolled into the Mohegan Sun Arena early Saturday evening and a few hours later walked away with the Class L state tournament trophy, defeating the Blue Dragons 62-51.

It was the Eagles fifth state title overall and second in the past three seasons. East Catholic captured the Class M title in 2014. Middletown which came in as the tournament’s third seed, has a rich championship tradition of its own with seven state championship trophies including one in 1964 when it defeated East Catholic for the Class M crown.

East Catholic wasted no time establishing its dominance on Saturday. The Eagles (22-3) jumped out to an early 7-1 lead and never let Middletown (24-4) get any closer.

“Beforehand, we spoke about championship games and I told the guys we were going to be the best we’ve ever been and to trust their training and one another,” Reilly said. “I said great things could happen, and they did and we played wonderfully.”

Junior guard Mike McGuirl was dominant in the early going scoring 12 of his game high 16 points in the first half. McGuirl’s thunderous one-handed dunk on a breakaway in the first quarter effectively served notice that on this day, East would not be denied.

“He’s just taken it to a new level,’ Reilly said of McGuirl. “His level of athleticism, his ability to shoot it…he’s just a special player. I’d match him up with any junior in the state. He’s that good.’’

The Eagles held the Blue Dragons to 37.2% shooting from the field and forced 23 turnovers.

“Entering the game, coach Reilly talked about the importance of us staying in the gaps and lanes and not getting beat, and we were able to execute that plan the entire game,” said McGuirl, who had three steals. “We made it hard for them to move the ball and get open.”

McGuirl fouled out with 3:53 remaining in the fourth quarter and Middletown managed to whittle a 16-point deficit down to 12 through some full court pressure. But it was too little too late as the Eagles spread the floor offensively and sealed the victory from the free throw line.

“It feels absolutely amazing to win this game and go out with two titles in three seasons,” senior guard Mark Carbone said. “Winning tonight is the best moment of my life and one I’ll always remember, and having the bond I do with my teammates makes it even more special.”

Carbone finished with 12 points with four assists and four steals while sophomore Will Pineo scored 14 points and led East with nine rebounds. Freshman guard Joe Reilly added 10 points.

“We came into the game focused on setting double screens and moving the ball well up top, and every guy consistently did that,” McGuirl said.

See More Action Photos from East Catholic’s Class L State Championship Game Victory Here https://thesportsdept.smugmug.com/East-Catholic-Boys-Basketball/

Cover Photo Mike McGuirl splits the Middletown defense on the way to another score East Players rush the court on the final horn Four busloads of students made for a loud cheering section for the Eagles Joe Reilly is surrounded by Blue Dragons Joe Reilly somehow managed to get this shot up and away Let the celebration begin! Mark Carbone gets a screen from Mike McGuirl Milan Lester gets to the rack in the Class L title game Senior Mark Carbone surveys the floor for East TheChamps! Will Pineo scored 14 in the title game

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