UNCASVILLE -- After winning the SCC championship, Hillhouse boys basketball coach Renard Sutton told anyone who would listen that Fairfield Prep had not yet seen the Academics' "A" game. But in the teams' fourth meeting, led by Raiquan Clark, Hillhouse authored a defensive masterpiece. The second-seeded Academics smothered top-seeded Prep at seemingly every turn as Hillhouse claimed its 22nd state championship 52-42 in Saturday night's Class LL final at Mohegan Sun Arena.
"Defensively it definitely was (Hillhouse's 'A' game)," Sutton said. "Defensively it was outstanding. The kids dug inside their hearts and brought out everything they could bring out." The Academics forced 17 Prep turnovers and outrebounded the Jesuits 42-38. Hillhouse beat the Jesuits for the third time this year, closing its season 26-1.
Clark, who dominated Prep during their meeting in the SCC final, scored a game-high 26 points, grabbing 12 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench. "It's like something that you dream about," Clark said. "Me and my team live for the big moment."
Tim Butala led Prep with 14 points and nine rebounds, and Paschal Chukwu scored 12, had 16 rebounds and six blocks. The Jesuits finished the year 24-3. "They're the only team we lost to," Prep coach Leo Redgate said. "Over the stretch of four games, they were the better team ... to only lose to one team all season, we can't hang our heads about that."
The Jesuits shot just 30 percent, as Hillhouse limited Prep's standout starting guards, Thomas Nolan, Keith Pettway and Ryan Murphy, to only 13 points on just 4-for-27 shooting. "I don't think we hit an outside shot," Redgate said. "We've been very hot for the past two weeks, and we picked a bad night to go cold." Prep shot shot just 6-for-25 (24 percent) in the first half, and Hillhouse forced the Jesuits into nine first-half turnovers, building a 24-16 halftime advantage. "Give them credit for great perimeter defense," Redgate said. "Hats off to them, they were the better team."
Clark, a 6-foot-3 junior, came off the bench and scored 11 first-half points. He scored eight straight -- taking the ball right at Prep's 7-footer Chukwu -- during the Academics' 10-2 run, which boosted them to their largest first-half lead, 19-9. "He's our all-purpose guy," Sutton said of Clark. "Our coaching staff put together a nice game plan."
Butala kept Prep in it with eight first-half points, then scored Prep's first two second-half baskets, getting within 26-20 with 6:59 in the third. "Tim's played exceptional," Redgate said. "He's been arguably our most consistent player in the postseason." But after Clark and Chukwu traded baskets, the Academics closed the third with a 12-5 run. The Jesuits missed their final six third-quarter field goal attempts. "We stayed pressuring their guards," Sutton said. "Defense is how we live." Sutton and Hillhouse finished 3-1 against the otherwise-unbeaten Jesuits. The Academics claimed their first state title since 2007 after losing two of the previous three.
Class LL final at Mohegan Sun Arena
HILLHOUSE (26-1) Andre Anderson 1 1-2 3 Bobby Bynum Jr. 2 2-8 6 Chaise Daniels 5 0-0 10 Shane Christie 2 0-0 5 Christopher Leak Jr. 0 0-0 0 Derrell Lee 0 0-0 0 Dion Allick Boyd 0 0-0 0 Marcus Brown 0 0-2 0 Trevor Thigpen 0 0-0 0 Corey Staggers 1 0-2 2 Quiaun Sturges 0 0-2 0 Raiquan Clark 9 8-11 26 Juan Carlos Sepulveda 0 0-0 0 Aaron White 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 11-27 52.
FAIRFIELD PREP (24-3) Keith Pettway 2 2-2 7 Ryan Murphy 1 1-1 3 Thomas Nolan 1 0-0 3 Tim Butala 7 0-0 14 Paschal Chukwu 5 2-5 12 David Zielinski 1 0-0 3 Ryan Foley 0 0-0 0 Chris Kelly 0 0-0 0 Colton Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 5-8 42.
FriSep05Mass of the Holy Spirit12:30 PMAlumni HallSt. Ignatius of Loyola Alumni Service Award will be presented. School will follow an early dismissal schedule. Parents and Alumni are welcome to attend.
WedSep24NHS Honors and Awards Mass7:30 PMSt. Thomas Aquinas Church