‘Canes Conquer Conard in Hoops 71-40
In a season where expectations remain very high, New Britain High boys basketball coach Todd Stigliano continues to build a firm foundation with strict attention to detail.
The Hurricanes came out of the six-point loss to top-ranked Hillhouse Dec. 19 sensing they played well, but promptly suffered a letdown in the 53-46 loss to East Hartford at home two days later. After starting the new year with a blowout of Hall, Stigliano faced a little adversity coming into Friday’s game against a Conard squad reaching the dangerous level under new coach Ty Bongiovanni.
All-CCC junior center Craven Johnson sat the bench for the entire game, apparently for missing a practice session.
“Just a violation of team rules so he does his due diligence,” Stigliano said.
In the aftermath of the convincing 71-40 conquest of Conard, Stigliano watched his deep backcourt contribute in every facet of the game and an exceptional defense hound Conard into turnovers and poor percentage shots.
“If we’re going to use our depth, it needs to show on nights like [Friday],” he said. “The mark of a good team is one that can survive without its best player. I don’t think we’ll ever have a night where we say that [a certain] kid has to play well or we won’t win. … Every game has been somebody different. We’ve gotten great minutes off the bench and [Friday] was another good example of that.”
Center Curtis Hyman scored 15 points, blocked four shots and had nine rebounds. Younger brother Curtrell Hyman, perhaps benefitting the most from Johnson’s absence, blocked shots and hit the boards. Swingman Daequone Clark had eight rebounds in limited action, but it was the backcourt pounding the boards and challenging Conard shots that stood out.
Sheveran Williams-Hardy, Michael Robinson and Aramis Hernandez started the game in Stigliano’s three-guard look. Annuel Saint Juste came off the bench to score 14 points and rip down nine rebounds. The coach had high praise for the energetic play of Isaiah Vasquez. Ronday McCray, exceptional in the junior varsity game and eager to show what he can do, scored seven quick points, made a steal and had an assist in the last five minutes.
The guards combined for 22 rebounds, bringing a point of emphasis from practice into the game.
“Hillhouse and East Hartford both out rebounded us and we lost both games,” Stigliano said. “We’ve been stressing that it can’t be just the big men rebounding. The big men are boxing out. The guards gotta get rebounds.”
Conard has no shortage of big bodies. Caleb LaRosa had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore transfer Yarn Irizarry showed that he’s an impact player in the making. The collective effort on the boards was more than the Chieftains could handle.
“We have to rebound with five guys and it’s getting better every game,” Stigliano said.
The defense swarmed, trapped and infiltrated passing lanes. The Chieftains made just 28 percent of its field-goal attempts (16-for-57). They forced shots from beyond the arc and found it difficult to get quality looks in the paint.
“We’re trying to add in defense every day in practice to give different looks,” Stigliano said. “You want to make them make adjustments. We did that pretty well tonight. We showed a couple different defenses.”
Stigliano paid tribute to East Hartford. The Hornets knocked Manchester from the ranks of the unbeaten Friday night. They also have victories over Glastonbury, East Catholic and a blowout of Xavier in addition to the win over the ’Canes. The Hornets have lost to Windsor by three and Weaver.
The emergence of East Hartford is just one of several early season story lines that indicate the CCC races will add some warmth to the chill of many a winter evening in January and February.
“[The loss to East Hartford] was a quintessential letdown game. We knew it was coming and it was awful to watch,” Stigliano said. “We knew it was coming the day before in practice. We played Hillhouse Wednesday night, we felt good about it despite the loss and we just got ahead of ourselves. Thursday’s practice was bad. We knew it in the locker room. We knew it in the warm-ups.
“You have to be mentally focused. In our league, if you don’t come to play the other team will beat you.”
CANES COMMENTARY: Former NBHS athletic director Bill Huber and his wife were in attendance at the Conard game and they received a rousing welcome from incomparable public address announcer Paul Majeski. Huber, a member of three state Halls of Fame, was also NB’s long-time baseball coach. …
New Britain 71, Conard 40
Jan. 4, at New Britain
Conard (2-5): Adam Litke 5 0-0 10, Victor Alvarado Jr. 2 0-1 4, Caleb LaRosa 4 2-4 10, Max Vogel-Freedman 2 0-0 5, Yarn Irizarry 1 1-2 3, Doug Horan 1 0-0 3, Karon Golding 1 1-2 3, Shaine Watkins 0 0-0 0, Travis Sinatro 0 0-0 0, Josh Williams 0 2-2 2, Tom Gerity 0 0-0 0, Brendan Dakin 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 6-11 40.
New Britain (4-2): Michael Robinson 4 0-1 10, Curtis Hyman 7 1-3 15, Annuel Saint Juste 5 2-3 14, Isaiah Vasquez 3 0-0 6, Sheveran Williams-Hardy 2 0-0 5, Curtrell Hyman 2 1-3 5, Aramis Hernandez 2 1-2 5, Kevin Tirado 1 0-0 2, Daequone Clark 1 0-0 2, Ronday McCray 3 0-0 7, Martin Moncada 0 0-0 0. Totals 30 5-12 71.
Conard 10 11 5 14 – 40
New Britain 16 20 11 24 – 71
Three-point goals – Conard: Vogel-Freedman, Horan; New Britain: Robinson 2, Saint Juste 2, Williams-Hardy, McCray.