Unless you’re an Xavier super-fan or maybe SCC commish Al Carbone, it’s hard to say anyone in the Connecticut high school hoops community saw the Falcons coming to Trumbull and upsetting St. Joseph Wednesday night in the Class LL second round.
But the Falcons did, 62-60, ending the Cadets two-year run as kings of LL. (Here’s my game story.)
It goes without saying, Xavier deserves a ton of credit for pulling off the win — the first on the Vito Montelli court in a couple years. (St. Joseph said at least the 2007 season, Twitter responses said Trinity Catholic won during the 2009 season. Either way, it doesn’t happen very often.)
The Falcons never went away, taking a 20-0 run in the first half in stride. Sophomore Elijah Pemberton had the proverbial ice water in his veins all night, hitting big shot after big shot and the rest of Xavier was very good. The Falcons 1-3-1 and match-up zone traps unsettled the Cadets throughout the second half.
St. Joseph, up double-digits much of the game, left the door open for Joe Carbone’s runner with 3.2 seconds left.
“I got it, spun and made a lucky shot,” Carbone said. “That was about it.”
However you want to look at it, Xavier earned this one.
The Cadets helped them out, throwing the ball away numerous times in the fourth and never getting much going offensively following their big run in the first half.
As the game progressed St. Joseph just looked … “off.”
When they hit their threes, like in the second quarter when they were 4-for-7 from beyond the arc, they looked like a state championship caliber team. When they couldn’t make a shot, they looked ordinary. St. Joseph even got called for a 10-second violation in the second half, something you’d never expect from them.
Quincy McKnight & Co. got things rolling and then it just stopped, which is a credit to the Falcons.
Even as Xavier crept closer and closer on the scoreboard, most inside the gym probably expected St. Joseph to win in the end. When they didn’t it was pure shock in Cadetsville.
Heads hug low. Dazed looks. Tears.
St. Joseph was justifiably upset to see his season come to such a stunning half. Nobody inside the Cadets locker room expected their season to end Wednesday — at home no less.
Count me among them. All year I thought St. Joseph might be a more dangerous team this year due to its scoring balance. Was it enough to win a third straight Class LL title in a brutal bracket? Maybe not, but I’m not going out on a limb thinking a loss (even to a quality Xavier team) in the second round was how anybody figured the St. Joseph season would end. (Credit to McKnight for sticking around to answer my questions — for like a good 3-4 minutes — after the game when many players would blow the media off. Cadets’ coach Chris Watts was also very gracious, albeit deflated, in defeat.)
In a more abstract view, it goes to show how hard the Class LL boys bracket is every season and what a special thing St. Joseph did by winning it in back-to-back seasons. Perhaps this was a course correction. Last year in the LL final St. Joseph looked to be on its way to a loss vs. Hillhouse, only to rally and win it in the second half.
To win a state title you need some breaks, to make your own luck and have the ball bounce your way.
St. Joseph didn’t get any of those things Wednesday night as fortune smiled on a deserving Xavier team late.