St. Bernard boys' basketball grinds out win over Plainfield
Montville — The St. Bernard School boys' basketball team doesn't believe it's built to rout opponents.
The Saints instead believe they're built for the grind, something that Joseph Beltran and others showed against Plainfield on Friday night.
St. Bernard trailed by two with 11.6 seconds left when Beltran grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed a free throw and was immediately fouled and sent to the line.
Beltran sank both free throws to force overtime, and the Saints clung-on for a 54-50 win in the battle for first place in the Eastern Connecticut Conference's Division III race.
"We spend the last 20 minutes (at practice taking free throws)," Beltran said. "We know that every game is going to come down to the stretch. We're not that team that's going to come out and blow somebody out. We know we're going to have to grind."
Beltran scored a game-high 19 points for St. Bernard (16-2, 9-1). It would clinch a share of the title with a home win over Windham on Monday and then would earn the title outright with a win at Tourtellotte on Wednesday.
These Saints don't want to share, though.
"That's our thought process," St. Bernard head coach Mark Jones said. "We've got to compete and win this next game (though). This game was huge, but if (we) lose that next game, it's not going to mean as much."
Hunter Baillargeon scored 16 for the Saints and Max Lee added nine rebounds.
Markeith Conyers had 15 points and eight rebounds for Plainfield (13-5, 9-2), which had a 10-game winning streak snapped.
A steal and layup by Connor Davis gave the Panthers a 47-43 lead with over a minute left. Davis had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Lee made a short jumper in transition for the Saints. He then took a charge on the other end from Conyers with 28.6 seconds remaining, fouling the latter out.
The Panthers got the ball back on a team rebound after a St. Bernard miss. The inbounds pass was thrown to Lee, however. He was fouled hard again, this time by Davis, his fifth.
"He's the heartbeat to our team because he does everything," Jones said about Lee. The kid is unbelievable."
Lee missed the free throw. Beltran somehow snared the ball in traffic and was fouled.
"When the game is on the line and you really want to win something, you're going to do everything in your power to go get (the ball) and help your team win," Beltran said.
Baillargeon made two free throws with 2:32 left in overtime to push the Saints ahead, 49-48. Lee followed moments later with a layup off a steal to give St. Bernard more breathing room.
Plainfield had edged St. Bernard on Jan. 16, 69-67. Chris Peasley (23 points) and Conyers (20 points) did a number inside on the Saints in that game.
"Cameron (Beaudet) did an unbelievable job battling (Peasley) all night, and then Nate (Avery) came in and battled," Jones said. "Our bigs did an unbelievable job tonight.
"None of these kids are scared. These kids fight. None of them are afraid of the big moment."
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