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East Catholic one of CT’s Top Boys Teams; Multiple Squads Having Strong Seasons - TheSportsDept.com

East Catholic one of CT’s Top Boys Teams; Multiple Squads Having Strong Seasons

By Danny Atkinson

East Catholic entered the regular season seen as one of the state’s top teams after going 25-1 last season, and the Eagles have done everything possible to reaffirm that belief. They are 10-0 and at the top of the CCC standings as of the 24th, and third in the Division I state standings. They have rarely been challenged, winning each game by double-digits, seven by over 20 points and five by over 30. East Catholic was ranked second in the most recent Game Time CT and Hartford Courant state polls.   

“The biggest reason for our success is the commitment of the guys to the team.  The entire operation puts the needs of the the team before the needs of the individual,” head coach Luke Reilly said. “If you get that kind of buy in from every person in the program you know it will be a special season.  We have that kind of buy in and great leadership to go along with it.” 

The Eagles have been consistently elite on both sides of the ball. They have scored over 70 points seven times, including 100 against South Windsor, and are averaging 79 points per game. The defense has held opponents under 50 points five times.

The deadly trio of Jaylin Hunter, Matt Knowling and Joe Reilly has been the backbone for East Catholic. In a tough matchup against Newington on the 21st, Knowling dominated the paint with 19 points and 15 rebounds, while Hunter and Reilly scored 23 and 16 points. In a matchup with Archbishop Wood (Pa.) two days earlier at the Hoophall Tournament, Hunter and Reilly were unstoppable, scoring 35 and 19 points. Against South Windsor, Knowling had another double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds, Hunter scored 27 and Reilly added 14. During the game, Reilly broke the program record for points scored.   

“Joey became the all time leading scorer in East Catholic History and he has now has a career record of 88-6.  He has expanded his game and is becoming a much better floor general and passer this season.  Jaylin plays both sides of the ball as good as anyone we have seen this year. He seems to get his hands on everything on the defensive end.  Matt can play every position on the floor and scores from 3 and can dominate a game inside.”  

“Our goal is to get better every day in all areas. This group is hungry to get better and are tying to enjoy each game as it stands alone.  We are just trying to take it one day at a time and be the best we can be in that moment,” Reilly said.  

GLASTONBURY

The Tomahawks, who advanced to the state semifinals last season, are 9-2 and fourth in the CCC and third in the Division L standings as of the 24th. Their talent has been on full display in January as they’ve gone 5-1, with five played on the road. The lone loss was to rival Simsbury. GHS has displayed its maturity as a highly-experienced squad, winning three of these contests by less than 10 points. Head coach Jim Vaughan said the team’s experience and depth has been the biggest keys to its success.

In the January games, the offense has been strong, averaging 59 points. The defense has held opponents under 50 three times. The offense has been very consistent, scoring over 50 points in each game. Vaughan said players have done a good job of sharing the ball and forcing mismatches with defenders. 

The duo of Aaron Latham and Jack Shea helped lead the Tomahawks to two of its most recent wins at East Lyme and Wethersfield in overtime on the 23rd and 10th, the first of which Vaughan called a signature win. Latham was great in the stretch drive of the comeback win against East Lyme, scoring 14 of his 26 points in the final minutes of the third and then the fourth periods. Meanwhile, Shea anchored the paint with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Against Wethersfield, Shea scored 19 and Latham 12. Cam Stiepock also put up 15. Shea and Latham also both scored 21 against Simsbury.       

“We just need to continue to get better every game and play our best when it matters the most,” Vaughan said.

ELLINGTON

Ellington had showed great improvement after going .500 last season. The Knights were 9-3 and tied for third in the NCCC as of the 23rd. After starting the season 6-1, they have slowed down slightly. However, the squad has still won three of four. Its wins at Canton and Windsor Locks were tight battles, with the margins eight and two points.

Ellington has played excellent defense in its wins, not allowing more than 46 points. The offense has also scored over 50 nine times.

“Our biggest strength is defense and leadership from the upperclassmen. Our weakness is getting the team  to continue to learn how to handle success/winning,” head coach Bob Freitas said.

Anthony Beasley and Ryan Zahner have anchored the Knights in its recent wins. The pair each scored 16 points against Rockville, while Zahner scored 12 against Canton and Beasley 11 against WL. Beasley also earned 20 points in their loss to Granby.  

“My starting five (Ryan Zahner, Colin Garrow, Logan Macaluso, Anthony Beasley and Gavin Laughlin) have learned how to win as a team no matter who the leading scorer is. They all have improved their games as individuals which has made them better players than last year,” head coach Freitas said.

ENFIELD

The Eagles have so far not played up to expectations after advancing to the state semifinals and returning many of their top players. Its one major loss was Jon Archer, who scored 28.6 points per game. The squad is 6-5 as of the 22nd. They have improved their play as the season’s gone along, and won consecutive games twice in January. The first pair were blowouts at E.O. Smith and Bristol Eastern, while the second were close triumphs against RHAM and East Lyme.

The offense played at a great level in these wins, averaging roughly 74 points. It has been strong the entire season, scoring over 50 in every contest but one.

Kyle Menaker was outstanding in all of these wins, averaging 21.5 points and snatching 10 rebounds against East Lyme and RHAM. Christian Pasini did a little bit of everything against East Lyme, scoring 17 and earning 5 rebounds and 4 assists, and had 11 against E.O. Smith. Cameron Hicks scored 11 and dished 6 assists against RHAM. Ty Calloway put up 19 against East Lyme.

RHAM

The Sachems are 5-6 as of the 22nd. They have been inconsistent all season, trading wins with losses. Three of these wins have been by less than 10 points. RHAM has held opponents under 50 points in four of its wins. Its losses have frequently been blowouts, with only one being in single-digits.

Alex Banas and Josh Boehler have been RHAM’s top players. Banas had a huge game with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the most recent win against Bulkeley, and scored 16 in a loss to Enfield. Boehler had 13 against Enfield and 14 against Hall. Alex Wood was also great against Bulkeley, obtaining 16 points and 8 boards.

SUFFIELD

The Wildcats are 5-7 as of the 22nd. They have struggled heavily since a 3-1 start and lost four of five games. The win was a 53-38 triumph against Coventry. These losses have been frustrating, as three are by seven points or less. They also lost by five to Northwest Catholic in December.

The defense has struggled in Suffield’s loses, allowing more than 50 points in all but one. As expected, its offense has been strong in the wins, exceeding 50 in most.

The trio of Dave Danek, Jared Lobo and Bodie Nadeau were all excellent in the Wildcats win against SMSA on the 7th, scoring 18, 14 and 13 points, respectively.

TOLLAND

The Eagles are 5-7 as of the 22nd. The team is inconsistent but has improved since a 1-4 start. They most recently defeated Bloomfield 73-68 on the 22nd.  Tolland has multiple blowout wins, and only one has come in single digits. Four of the losses have come by single digits.

“The team is showing consistent effort each day in practice. All of the players have made the connection that improvement as an individual and as a team is directly related to daily effort,” head coach Garth Adams said. “We also have a large number of returning players who understand our philosophy and what we are trying to accomplish.”

The Eagles have been solid on offense, scoring more than 50 points eight times. They scored in the 70’s in the most recent wins against Bloomfield and Westbrook. However, the defense has allowed the same figure.  

“On offense, we have a nice mix of players who can shoot from the perimeter, penetrate off the dribble and score on the interior. We are working to be more consistent in our shooting when we are away from home,” Adams said.

The duo of Brian Geitner and Dominick Boutot were on fire in the aforementioned wins. Geitner scored 33 and Boutot 18 points against Bloomfield, and 18 and 15 against Westbrook. Gavin Rublewski also scored 14 in this win. Geitner scored 20 and 16 points in losses to E.O. Smith and Innovation.

“We will continue to focus on the process of improving each day in practice, and trying to be as “perfect” as we can on defense each game. Of course, we will be looking to compete in the post-season,” Adams said.

ROCKVILLE

The Rams are 4-8 as of the 23rd. After beginning the season 1-5, they went on a three-game win streak, but have reverted back to struggles with three consecutive losses. Two of the losses were not close, and the competitiveness of them also varied earlier in the season. Rockville has shown the ability to win close games, as three of them came by 10 points or less, including one and two.   

“A few unfortunate injuries have put us without one or both of our more athletic leading scorers for the majority of the first half of the season.  We have had to adjust how we play slightly due to these injuries, focusing more on slowing down the game down and keeping scores close rather than playing with the speed and athleticism that we had originally planned,” head coach Mike Barile said. “Unfortunately during this stretch, we struggled to compete against some talented teams and have taken some tough losses. Many of our younger players have had to transition into bigger roles much earlier than anticipated. So it has been a learning experience for many of them.   To our kids’ credit, they have come to practice every day with positive attitudes, worked their tails off, and continued to develop and learn what it takes to be a competitive varsity program.” 

The Rams defense has been poor at times, in the end allowing 50 or more points in 11 games. The offense has also been inconsistent, but ultimately exceeded 50 eight times.

Rockville has seen many players step up on offense at times. In its most recent win against East Windsor on the 14th Nolan Storo and Lorezo Percy each scored 12 points. In its previous win against Stafford, Cameron Bogli put up 15 and Zachary Condon 10. Finally, Alex Deane hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer against HMTCA. Storo led the Rams with 13 points and Andrew Main had 12.

“Looking forward to the remainder of the season, we are now just getting our full team healthy and back to strength. We will rely heavily on seniors Justin Collins and Lorenzo Percy to lead us offensively. We absolutely have the ability to get the wins needed to make the state tournament, but we don’t have much room for error with only a limited number of games remaining and some tough upcoming opponents,” Barile said. 

SOUTH WINDSOR

The Bobcats are 1-11 as of the 22nd. Their lone win came at Maloney, 74-63. South Windsor has experienced six single-digit losses, including four by three points or less and a double-overtime defeat at Greenwich. It has given up more than 50 points nine times.

Justice Ellison and Zach Donahue each had monster games in the win over Maloney. Ellison scored 35 and snatched 4 steals, while Donahue scored 24 and distributed 6 assists. Trevor Anthony also was in double digits with 11, and recorded 6 rebounds and 5 steals. Ellison scored 22 against East Catholic.  

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