Boys Basketball Class LL Championship
Hillhouse 78, East Hartford 58
By Jimmy Zanor
Special to CIACsports.com
UNCASVILLE – The Hillhouse-New Haven boys basketball team captured its third Class LL state championship in five years with a 78-58 victory over East Hartford on Saturday at The Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Academics (28-1) have won a state record 24 CIAC state titles, including a win against Weaver in last year’s final.
“I’m just so happy for the kids,” Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton said. “Earlier in the season I was hopefully talkng about it being deja’vu this year. It’s deja’vu. We were here last year the same time and we pulled it out. I can’t be happier.”
Hillhouse senior guard Joey Kasperzyk, Jr. and junior guard Davon Warner each netted a game-high 19 points. Junior forwards Christian Adams and Mekhi Warren each had 13 points, while senior guard Tyler Douglas had a game-high seven assists.
East Hartford (23-4), which defeated Kennedy in the semifinals, was making its first state final appearance since 1949.
“This was new for all of us,” East Hartford coach Ed Lavoie said. “And Hillhouse came in and they knew what they needed to do. They’ve been here before. That’s a seasoned team. We had some jitters at first and we had a hard time fighting back.”
Seniors Kingsley Cockburn, Austin Nwafor, and Justin Nwafor each had 11 points for the fourth-seeded Hornets.
The SCC champion Academics made 6 of 11 three-pointers in the first half to build a 39-22 lead. Adams made 3 of 4 from behind the arc and scored 11 first half points.
Kasperzyk also scored 11 points in the first half as the Academics jumped out to a 18-8 lead after one quarter.
East Hartford opened the second half with an 8-0 spurt. Austin Nwafor sparked the run with a pair of low post baskets and when junior guard Isaiah Williams converted a fast break basket the Hornets trailed 39-30 with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
“We knew they were going to make a run, the’re a good basketball team,” Sutton said. “We just had to stick to our principles and keep rebounding.”
But Warner gave Hillhouse a lift with a corner three-pointer – the Academics made 8 of 15 from beyond the arc – and a pair of driving layups from Kasperzyk made it 53-36 with two minutes left in the third.
“We went through a lot this year,” Kasperzyk said. “We just overcame everything and came out on top. The game is about runs. They made their run and they couldn’t make another one after we made our run. This means a lot.”
Hillhouse shot 25 of 51 (49 percent) from the field. The Academics outrebounded the Hornets 36-26.
“Hillhouse is an outstanding group that can play different ways,” Lavoie added. “We didn’t really do a good job defensively keeping them where we wanted to on the floor and they were able to hurt us on the dribble.”