Eagles ground Hornets in CCC Hoop Showdown

By Ken House

MANCHESTER – In a big game between two big-name schools, East Catholic’s Matt Veretto came up – you guessed it – big-time.

Veretto scored a game-high 23 points, including a one-handed, game-sealing jam in the final minutes, as the East Catholic High boys’ basketball team grabbed a 68-51 win over visiting East Hartford on Friday. The Eagles (8-1) avenged an 84-73 loss to the Hornets (8-1) on Dec. 22.

Veretto said the win gave the Eagles confidence for some of its bigger games down the road.

“We knew we could do it,” Veretto said. “They were undefeated and our only loss was against them. It shows we can beat a lot of the top teams.”

East Catholic established its momentum early, going up 3-0 on a Mike McGuirl three-pointer in the opening minute. The Eagles extended their lead to 11-3 midway through the first quarter but the Hornets tightened the score to 13-11 after 12 minutes. East Catholic reestablished its momentum in the second quarter to lead 28-18 at halftime.

“In the first half, we wanted to make sure we had a comfortable lead,” Veretto said. “We just wanted to work hard all throughout the game and make sure we got it done this time. We have not had many good first quarters, especially like this.”

East Hartford inched closer in the third quarter behind nine points from Aaron Tomlinson. But East Catholic regained the momentum in the final frame. After a three-pointer by Tomlinson cut the Hornets’ deficit to 45-38 with 6:18 left, a pair of free throws by Jamil Hornesby put the Eagles up by seven points and the Hornets got no closer.

Once Veretto threw down his dunk, which was immediately followed by a jam from Rakesh Tibby, the Eagles netted themselves a nice swarm of Hornets to be added to the win column.

“We had a lot of momentum going our way,” Veretto said of his dunk. “I was going up to get the rebound and found myself high enough to dunk it. Marquis had a great follow-up dunk, which gave us a lot of momentum.”

East Catholic did a fine job of spreading the wealth on offense. McGuirl, who has signed a National Letter of Intent with Kansas State, finished with 16 points. Hornesby added 12 points.

For the Hornets, Tomlinson finished with 13 points. Isaiah Williams added 12 points.

“Our three big men got a lot boards and a lot of layups,” Veretto said. “We had a lot of great defensive play from our guards. They were not able to get off many shots from that.”

Following the game, Eagles’ coach Luke Reilly was all smiles.

“The kids and the atmosphere were great,” he said. “It was awesome all the way around.”

Veretto, especially.


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