West Haven coach Tyrese Sullivan is known as a player’s coach. Watching the celebration following the Southern Connecticut Conference final told the story.
Behind a 35-8 run, top-seeded West Haven avenged an earlier season loss by defeating second-seeded Notre Dame to take home the SCC Division I title at the Floyd Little Athletic Center Friday afternoon.
The Westies looked as if they would suffer the same fate as in the initial meeting with the Green Knights as Notre Dame jumped out to a 21-10 lead in the first quarter. The Westies were not got to be denied this time, following with 35 of the next 43 points to take a 45-29 lead in the third quarter.
West Haven opened the third quarter on a 14-0 run started by Duncanson, which also included seven points by Eli Blackwell. Blackwell finished with 16 points in the game, including 12 in the second half.
Kairon Hooks was also a force for the Westies as he scored 14 points, including eight in the first half. When Hooks executed a perfect slam dunk late in the fourth quarter to give the Westies a 60-42 lead, the title was sealed with an exclamation point.
The Green Knights came out firing in the first half, taking a 21-10 lead in the opening quarter on torrid
shooting. Notre Dame’s Timaury Gay drained three 3-ponters in the opening eight minutes as Notre Dame hit three from behind the arc.
West Haven struggled offensively in the opening quarter, despite 3-pointers from Hooks and Manny Belcher.
Trailing by 11 points, the Westies began a 13-0 run with a 3-pointer by Belcher and a bucket by Kyle Kearson (18 points) to end the quarter. The Westies then opened the second quarter with the first eight points, including 3-pointers by Kearson and Hooks, and a bucket by Hooks to take a 23-21 lead.
Notre Dame took leads of 26-25 and 29-27 on 3-pointers by Robert Oliverio, before West Haven closed the half with buckets by Belcher and Duncanson for a 31-29 advantage.
West Haven reached the SCC finals with a dramatic overtime victory over Wilbur Cross in the semifinals.
With Cross leading by three points and West Haven seemingly out of time, the ball was ruled out of bounds with 0.3 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. West Haven set up a play which would have Blackwell attempt a 3-pointer.
Blackwell was fouled while taking the 3-pointer and calmly hit all three free throws to force overtime. West Haven outscored Cross 13-9 in the extra session and narrowly prevailed over the two-time defending SCC champions 64-58 in front of a raucous crowd at Neil Cavallaro Court at West Haven High Tuesday evening.
After a basket by Jarel Delgado (16 points) put Cross up 49-46 in the final seconds, West Haven forced a shot which did not go. The ensuing play saw the ball called out of bounds and West Haven given a final opportunity. Blackwell was fouled as time expired and drained all three to force the overtime.
Duncanson hit a 3-pointer to give West Haven a 52-49 lead to start overtime, before Cross evened the contest on a bucket by Cristian McClease. Duncanson and McClease matched 3-pointers for a 55-55 game, before Delgado nailed a 3-pointer for a 58-57 Cross lead with 1:37 to go in overtime.
Blackwell again gave West Haven the lead with a pair of free throws with 1:19 left and Hooks extended the lead to 60-58 with a free throw. Cross then missed two inside shots, before West Haven advanced with the final four points.
Cross controlled the pace of the game, forcing West Haven to spend a lot of energy catching up. West Haven finally took the lead at 38-36 on a bucket by Blackwell to start the fourth quarter. The lead was West Haven’s first since a 2-0 lead to start the contest.
Delgado gave Cross a 43-41 advantage, and a free throw by Noah Rainge increased the Cross lead to 45-42 with 1:45 left in regulation. West Haven then went on top with 53.9 seconds left, but Cross scored the next four points to set the final frantic moments of regulation.
Cross controlled the pace in the first half and took a 24-21 lead to the third quarter. Behind eight points from Dereyk Grant, the Governors had West Haven in a 21-14 hole until West Haven went on a 7-3 run to end the half.
A basket, then two free throws by Duncanson got the Westies within 21-19 with 1:11 left in the second quarter, but a basket by Namumba Santos had Cross back up by four.
Duncanson finished the first half with 10 points for the Westies, with eight coming in the second quarter when West Haven got back in the game.
The Governors were on fire from the outside to start the contest, with Delgado, McClease and Grant draining 3-pointers for a 9-2 lead. West Haven got as close as 9-8 in the opening eight minutes on a bucket and free throw by Hooks, but Grant drained another 3-pointer and Santos closed the scoring in the quarter for a 15-10 Cross advantage after 16 minutes.
Grant finished with 13 points and McClease had 11 in the loss for Cross. Duncanson led West Haven with 26 points and Hooks added 10.
To say Grace Nowak has had a pretty tough three years would be an understatement. After tearing her ACL her sophomore year, Nowak followed with an MCL tear a season after.
With a postseason title in mind, Nowak and the rest of her West Haven/Sacred Heart Academy teammates trained like no other year. The hard work paid off.
Making 26 saves, including 10 in a frantic third period, Nowak helped lead the top-seeded Westie Sharks to a 5-2 victory over No. 2 Guilford in the Southern Connecticut Conference Division I championship game at the Edward L. Bennett Rink Thursday evening.
The title was the third in program history for the Westie Sharks and first since 2019 when WH/SHA topped Amity/Cheshire/North Haven.
While Nowak was the star in net, both Mia Celentano and Jenna Hunt provided the offensive heroics as each finished with a goal and an assist.
Celentano, who was named the Most Outstanding Player, had numerous scoring opportunities throughout the game, but it was her assist on freshman Taylor Alfano’s third period tally which sealed the title for the Westie Sharks.
Celentano sent a perfect pass to Alfano, who skated to the right faceoff circle, before beating Guilford goaltender Julia McDonald for a 4-1 lead with 5:04 gone by in the third period.
Guilford (8-2) cut the deficit to 4-2 just 2:22 later on a goal by Sofia Cuozzo, but the Grizzlies never got closer. Nowak came up big when she denied Guilford star Maddie Epke in front with 6:58 left then turned Epke aside with a pad save with 1:42 left.
The Westie Sharks added an empty net goal by Jianna Cohrs, off an assist from Nowak, to cap the scoring.
The two teams traded goals in the middle period as WH/SHA took a 2-1 lead. The Grizzlies had to consider themselves lucky as Celentano had two breakaways for the Westie Sharks, but shot wide with 2:25 left in the period and hit the crossbar with 20 seconds to go.
As they did in the opening period, the Westie Sharks came out flying to start the second and took a quick 2-0 lead when Geena Montano buried a rebound of a Hunt shot 1:07 into the second.
Maya Boyhen was denied by McDonald and the Grizzlies got within a goal two minutes later when Epke ripped a perfect shot through a screen past Nowak four minutes into the period.
Both Nowak and McDonald (30 saves) kept their teams in a close contest with several outstanding saves in the period, the best coming from McDonald when she turned aside a beautiful scoring chance by Cohrs in front with just over two minutes to go in the middle period.
After Guilford dominated for over 10 minutes in the opening period, the Westie Sharks got on the board first when Boyhen’s shot was denied by McDonald, but the rebound was tapped home by Celentano with 52.4 seconds left in the opening period for a 1-0 WH/SHA lead.
The Westie Sharks came out firing in the opening period as shots by Celentano and Boyhen were turned aside less than two minutes in.
The Grizzlies then took over. If not for the spectacular goaltending of Nowak, Guilford could have had a couple of goals on the board.
Nowak turned aside 11 shots in the first period, with her best coming when Epke flew past the WH/SHA defense, but was denied by a glove save with 9:46 left in the opening period.
Epke then fed Cuozzo in front, but Nowak made a great pad save, before the WH/SHA goaltender denied Epke in front with a blocker save with 4:33 to go in the first period.
With a dominant 6-0 victory over No. 4 Masuk/Barlow, the Westie Sharks advanced to the finals to play Guilford.
The contest against Masuk/Barlow was decided early as WH/SHA scored four times in the opening period and never looked back. Boyhen and Mackenzie Gardner led the way in the game with two goals apiece. Gardner also added two assists, and Celentano had a goal and an assist in the win.
The Westie Sharks scored four times in a span of 4:09 to take control of the game. Boyhen opened the scoring 5:38 in off assists from Celentano and Gardner, Gardner scored 1:14 later off an assist from Emilee DeGrand, and Hunt scored an unassisted goal one minute later.
When Boyhen scored an unassisted goal with 5:13 left in the period, WH/SHA led 4-0. Gardner, off an assist from Meghan Dupre, and Celentano, off an assist from Cohrs, wrapped up the scoring in the second period.
Nowak made eight saves in the shutout win for the Westie Sharks.
The season has come to an end for the West Haven girls basketball team. Despite a valiant effort by the Westies, the depth of Sacred Heart Academy proved too much as the Sharks won the Southern Connecticut Conference Division II title at North Haven High Thursday evening with a 55-39 victory over West Haven.
The Sharks finish the season at 14-1, while the Westies end the campaign at 9-5.
The Westies kept upwith the tempo early as a 3-pointer by Kassidy Carrano gave West Haven a 5-3 lead. That was West Haven’s last lead of the game.
West Haven got within 18-16 when Amani Abuhatab scored the last five points of the opening quarter for West Haven, but the Sharks led by 11 at the half.
The Westies got as close as 35-28 in the third quarter, but the depth of the Sharks proved to be too much for West Haven.
Abuhatab led West Haven with 19 points in the loss.
Using a strong defensive effort, second-seeded West Haven topped third-seeded North Haven 48-39 at West Haven High Monday evening in the league semifinals.
Abuhatab was the story in the game for West Haven. Not only did she finish with 20 points, but the sophomore controlled the boards with 15 rebounds.
As has been the case in West Haven’s recent success, which now includes three straight wins, the Westies were tough on defense, holding North Haven to single digits in points over each of the first three quarters. The Indians finally scored in double digits in the final eight minutes, but West Haven was in control with a 35-19 lead.
North Haven fought back in the fourth quarter after a bucket by Abuhatab gave West Haven a 17-point lead at 41-24 with 5:28 remaining. West Haven then struggled with North Haven’s pressure as the lead was cut to 45-35 with 1:48 remaining.
Abuhatab’s bucket put West Haven back in a comfort zone as the lead grew to 47-35 with 1:04 remaining.
Freshman Isabella Fiorillo scored 11 points, Carrano scored six, and Elena Petrie and Tenique Gates each scored four in the win.
For all your West Haven sporting news throughout the year, including game articles by Mike Madera, highlights, photos and more, visit www.westieblue.com.