Unbeaten Montville boys win Grasso Tech Holiday Classic

Groton — When in doubt, ask the historian. And the closest thing to a sage on all things Montville High School sports is athletic director and true, blue Montvillian Phil Orbe, who had a question pending Friday from Tim Strong, his first-year basketball coach.

Strong asked him the last time a Montville boys' basketball team began a season 4-0.

"He told me it's been about 20 years," Strong said, "or never."

And now there's more proof about never saying never.

Because the boys of Montville are 4-0.

They arrived there with a 65-41 win over Grasso Tech in Friday night's championship game of the Grasso Tech Holiday Classic.

"As a first-year head coach it feels great," Strong said. "It definitely wasn't easy coming in and putting in a whole new system. But now we're getting better as the games roll along."

All-Tournament team member Bernard Hawkins, a smooth sophomore guard, led the Indians with 20 points. Fellow All-Tournament team member Antonio Brown had 15 points, Ethan McKinney had 12 and Tournament Most Valuable Player Eddie Reyes-Suarez added 10.

Jacob Cortes, who earned the tournament's Charlie Miller Sportsmanship Award, led the Eagles with 16 points. Teammate Donnel Brown also made the All-Tournament team.

The Eagles, who trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, rallied to tie the game at 28 midway through the third period. Montville finished the game outscoring Grasso Tech 37-13.

"Emotions got the best of us for a while," Strong said. "We made some substitutions and they went on a little bit of a run. Then at halftime, we told them first few minutes of the second half would be critical. And they tied it. After that, we got back into our full court press and things got good again. Their zone bothered us. We have to develop some shooters."

The Indians won this tournament without leading scorer Zach Southard, who is out with an injured finger on his non-shooting hand. And still, the Indians persevered. Now they are unbeaten in Montville.

"We know we have a long way to go," Strong said. "But I like the way we're playing. The kids have bought in. We are 4-0 and haven't played a home game yet. We're really looking forward to going home now at 4-0."

Montville opens the home schedule in Division IV of the Eastern Connecticut Conference on Jan. 2 with a game against Tourtellotte.

• Wheeler defeated Norwich Tech 69-35 in the consolation game as Scott Pion had 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assist and four steals to lead the Lions (2-2), while Bowen Baker had 17 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks and Lukas Jones had 15 points on five 3-pointers. Baker also made the All-Tournament team.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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