Rocky Hill stuns St. Bernard in OT in Division IV boys' hoop quarterfinals
Montville — St. Bernard School was eight minutes away from going to the CIAC Division IV boys' basketball tournament semifinals.
The Saints took a 13-point lead over Rocky Hill into the fourth quarter of Monday's quarterfinal. They had the Terriers reeling after outrebounding, outworking and outplaying them the previous two quarters. The home crowd and the St. Bernard band were taking years off of everyone's hearing.
It sure felt like St. Bernard was going to the semifinals.
Rocky Hill, 26th-seeded Rocky Hill, refused to go away. It used a press to speed up the game in the fourth quarter to force overtime and went on to stun the second-seeded Saints 70-67.
"You have to give (Rocky Hill) credit," St. Bernard head coach Mark Jones said. "They did a good job speeding us up a little more, and then they just started making shots. Our shots weren't falling.
"That's the game sometimes. You don't make shots, stuff starts to get a little bit tighter."
Hunter Baillargeon had a game-high 22 points for the Saints (22-3), the two-time Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II champions. Max Lee scored 14 and Joseph Beltran 13.
St. Bernard outscored the Terriers 42-29 over the second and third quarters. It began the fourth quarter with a 48-35 lead.
Rocky Hill outscored the Saints 23-10 in the fourth.
"They pressed us," Jones said. "We had, not just turnovers, we didn't make a lot of shots that we were making earlier."
The Terriers (11-12) advanced to play No. 3 Wilcox Tech in Wednesday's semifinals.
Wilcox Tech beat No. 6 Sports Sciences 70-66 in its quarterfinal.
"They outplayed us in the second and third quarters big time," Rocky Hill head coach Josh Dinerman said. "We started out hot. We were pounding them inside (in the first quarter).
"They started to isolate us and they were outworking us. I said, 'Look, guys, we didn't come this far to get outworked. We're going to press them the whole fourth quarter, and I feel how hard we work in practice, how battle-tested we were, nothing is too big to overcome.'"
The Terriers have become destiny's darlings of the state tournament. They lost seven of their last eight games during the regular season playing in the rugged Central Connecticut Conference and didn't even qualify for the league tournament.
"The CCC is unbelievably competitive," Dinerman said. "We started to run into New Britain, Manchester, Windsor, Hartford Public, Wethersfield. There's no gimmes there. You got to bring it every night or you're going to get blown out.
"We had two weeks to practice (without making the CCC tournament), and that two weeks of practice was the best all year. … Those two weeks, I just looked at my assistant coaches and said, 'they get it.' It clicked. And now they have that confidence. They believe. We got hot. Backs against the wall, these kids, all their heart, I'm so proud of them."
Jordan DelMastro and Andrew DiMatteo both scored 15 for Rocky Hill and Ryan Robinson scored 14.
DelMastro tied the game at 58 with 52 seconds left in regulation. The Terriers got the ball back after a Saints' turnover with 17.1 second remaining but missed the first free throw, giving St. Bernard the ball back.
The Saints missed a shot at the buzzer to force overtime.
Riley Donovan's driving layup gave the Terriers a 60-58 lead with 3:42 left in overtime, their first lead since late in the first half. He scored 13.
St. Bernard kept missing its shots, while the Terriers kept getting to the line. They led 65-58 with 59 seconds left.
"I'm proud of them," Jones said. "I know they don't feel it now because they had big aspirations of getting to the state semifinals and trying to cut down the nets (in the finals at Mohegan Sun Arena). They should be proud. They had an unbelievable year this year with winning the regular season (ECC Division III title), winning the ECC (Division II) tournament, and then getting to the quarters.
"I don't know how long it's been since St. Bernard has been to the quarters, but I'm sure It's been a little while. These guys should be proud of themselves."
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