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St. Bernard boys rally in second half for 63-58 win over No. 9 NFA

Montville — Among all the opportunities available to curse COVID, this one would make the starting lineup:

In more normal times, Powers Gym would have been full and howling Tuesday night with a rattle and hum befitting what some observers were calling the "Game of the Year" in the Eastern Connecticut Conference regular season.

And while some other league outposts might object to such a designation — there are other good teams in this league too, you know — there's no denying that one-loss Norwich Free Academy and one-loss St. Bernard would have filled the place.

But with COVID-related restrictions to attendance, the limited spectators saw a beauty.

Fearless St. Bernard freshman Amyre Gray led a furious second-half rally, leading the Saints to the top of the Eastern Connecticut Conference with a 63-58 win over No. 9 Norwich Free Academy.

St. Bernard (11-1) trailed by eight at halftime, rallied to lead by eight early in the fourth period and overcame a four-point deficit late.

"We're just resilient," St. Bernard coach Mark Jones said. "I'm so proud of our kids."

Gray, Cedric Similien and Amare Marshall scored big baskets late for the Saints, who also benefitted from a late technical foul on NFA. St. Bernard was leading 58-56 with 29.6 seconds left when an NFA player walked on to the floor without his name entered in the scorebook.

Similien made a key free throw to give St. Bernard a three-point lead and the Saints held on.

"We just started making better passes and we came together on offense and defense," said Gray, who scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half. This team can be great. Undefeated the rest of the way."

Similien had 15 points and Devan Williams 12 for St. Bernard.

Austin Cannon led NFA with 16 points and Tyrone Cummings had 15. NFA played the fourth period without starting guard Tony Williams, who appeared to injure his knee late in the third period.

"We just had to play better," Jones said of the 31-23 halftime deficit. "I believe in our kids. In the second half, we came out and hit a bunch of shots and didn't turn it over."

He also credited junior Tyson Wheeler with a strategical adjustment.

"Tyson said at halftime we needed to go to a zone," Jones said. "We listened. That's what we do. Believe in each other."

m.dimauro@theday.com



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