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Defensive shutdown helps SMSA top rival Classical for first NCCC Tourney crown – The Collinsville Press
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Defensive shutdown helps SMSA top rival Classical for first NCCC Tourney crown

SMSA’s Johnathan Hernandez flies backwards after being fouled in Friday night’s NCCC Tournament final in Hartford. Hernandez landed safely on his backside and continued in the game, scoring a game-high 22 points.

HARTFORD, March 3 – The Sport Medicine Science Academy boys basketball team has spent most of the year playing man-to-man defense and it has been quite successful.

The Tigers went 17-3 and finished second in the North Central Connecticut Conference behind Canton. SMSA earned a trip to the NCCC Tournament championship game for just the second time in school history.

So, in the final against cross-town rival Hartford Classical, the Tigers changed their tune in the second quarter. They switched into a 2-3 zone defense. And, it worked out just fine for the Tigers.

SMSA closed out the first half with a 14-0 run and gave up just a single point in the second quarter as they pulled away to win their first NCCC Tournament championship with a 66-50 win over Classical on Friday night.

“They missed some scoring opportunities and we were able to capitalize,” SMSA coach Milun Mraz said. “Stopping their penetration to the basket was the key. Rebounding the basketball was tough in the 2-3 but we were able to stop their penetration.”

The Gladiators (17-6) cut the lead to 10 with an early basket in the third quarter but that was as close as they would get. The lead swelled as high as 19 points. The closest that Classical would get was 12 points down with 1:31 remaining in the game.

“The kids were hungry and they wanted to do something that had never been done before,” Mraz said.

The Tigers (20-3) won the NCCC title in 2015 and shared the title with Classical in 2016. In 2015, the Tigers dropped a 48-44 decision to Avon in the NCCC Tournament final. This was Classical’s first-ever trip to the NCCC Tournament title game.

SMSA’s Johnathan Hernandez (11) scored a game-high 22 points and earned tournament MVP honors.

SMSA’s Johnathan Hernandez was the tournament MVP. He had 10 of his game-high 22 points in the third quarter. Daquan Carr added 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. Jeff Narcisse scored just two points but he pulled down 14 rebounds and had six steals.

SMSA’s swarming defense forced numerous Classical turnovers. And the Gladiators couldn’t buy a bucket. They missed numerous shots at point-blank range.

Tyreice Woods led Classical with 17 points while Danny Campbell chipped in with 12 points.

Classical began the game well. They led 14-12 after nearly 10 minutes of action. Woods had seven of Classical’s first 14 points including a pair of three-point goals and a fast break run to the basket after a turnover.

Canton’s Ethan Burke, who scored 42 points in two tournament games including 26 in a 48-47 loss to Classical in the semifinals, was named to the All-Tournament along with East Windsor’s Marcus Goss, Woods, Frank, Carr and Hernandez.

Nearly two dozen Canton fans and parents were in attendance to show support for Classical. About a dozen students came over in a fan bus for the game. Canton has been in the news after several students chanted Trump, Trump, Trump during the loss to Classical on Tuesday night. School officials said the chants were disrespectful and some fans found the chants to be racially motivated. 

SMSA players and fans celebrate after winning the NCCC Tournament for the first time on Friday night.

SMSA 66, Hartford Classical 50
At Hartford (SMSA)
Classical (50) Jerod Frank 1-3-5, Dashan King 2-1-7, Tyreice Woods 6-2-17, Luis Molina 0-0-0, Tyreese Jones 0-0-0, Traimell Frank 0-0-0, Jarred Griffith 0-0-0, Robert Simmons 3-1-7, Dayjon James 0-0-0, Danny Campbell 6-0-12, Justin Oller 0-0-0. Totals 18-7-50
SMSA (66) Daquan Carr 5-5-18, Johnathan Hernandez 7-7-22, Tre Bailey 6-2-14, Devon Daniels 0-2-2, Jeff Narcisse 0-2-2, Nasir Williams 1-2-4, R.J. Doucette 0-0-0, Jacob Gallo 0-0-0, Lee Randall 1-1-4, Tahj Murphy 0-0-0, Justin Wright 0-0-0. Totals 20-21-66
Classical (17-6)                   13    1  17  19  — 50
SMSA (20-3)                       10  16  22  18  – 66
Three-point goals: Carr (S) 3, Hernandez (S), Randall (S), King (C) 2, Woods (C) 3

All-Tournament team – Ethan Burke, Canton; Marcus Goss, East Windsor; Tyrrece Woods, Classical; Jerod Frank, Classical; Daquan Carr, SMSA, Jon Hernandez, SMSA (tournament MVP)

2017 NCCC Tournament
Canton 43, Somers 40, OT
Classical 61, Suffield 60
East Windsor 51, Windsor Locks 49
SMSA 67, Granby 44
Classical 48, Canton 47
SMSA 68, East Windsor 61
SMSA 66, Classical 50

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years.

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