Greenwich boys hoopsters upend St. Joe’s in thriller

Greenwich High School's Leonel Hyatt applies the defense to his St. Joe's opponent during Wednesday's victory. — Vic Eng photo

Greenwich High School’s Leonel Hyatt applies the defense to his St. Joe’s opponent during Wednesday’s victory. — Vic Eng photo

Although the St. Joseph High School boys basketball team erased a nine-point fourth quarter deficit, Greenwich High School was just too tough in the final minutes.

Giving up a 53-45 lead, the Cards were still able to outlast the Cadets at Vito Montelli Court and come away with the 61-57 victory Wednesday night.

“The kids feel great,” Greenwich High School head coach Patrick Heaton said. “You coach and practice every day and you want the kids to win. I could handle losing. I’ve lost enough games in my life and I’ve won enough games. But for the kids, this is their experience and you want them to get the chance to win as many games as they can. So this felt good and I am very happy.”

For St. Joe’s Mike Sulik finished with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists. Not to be outdone was Omar Telfer, as he added 13 points and three rebounds. Joe Mangiamele netted 12 points, while Camren Menefee chipped in with six points.

“Coming into the game I thought we had a good practice before the game, I felt like we were pretty prepared and were ready to play them,” said St. Joseph head coach Chris Watts. “But when we got on the floor, I didn’t see the fire. I don’t know if it was because we had pretty close to the same record, our guys kind of took it off. But when you’re not doing as well as we are, you can’t afford to take a team for granted. I’m not saying that we did that, but I didn’t see the fire.”

For Big Red, no one had a better day than Conor Harkins. He finished with a game-high 28 points, but was on fire from behind the three-point line. Harkins’ first five buckets were all from three-point lane and at one point had 15 of Greenwich’s 17 points. Harkins finished with six three-pointers in the first half and eight overall.

“I’ve coached some special kids in my lifetime and there’s not that many kids that can do that,” Heaton said. “He weighs 145-pounds but he can stroke it. After the game in the locker room, I told the guys to thank him because he came to play. We were sleep-walking through much of the first half, but he kept us in the game.”

In addition to Harkins, Griffin Golden added 11 points, while Henry Golden added six points. Leonel Hyatt added five points, but also led GHS with 10 rebounds.

St. Joe’s started the contest on fire and built a quick 8-2 lead when Sulik connected on the layup and both Mangiamele and Aaron Sells each drained baseline three-pointers. While the Cadets held the 17-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, a three-pointer from Harkins from the top of the key and another baseline three-pointer after grabbing his own offensive rebound and stepping back for another three helped Greenwich cut the deficit to 19-17.

The game went back-and-forth throughout most of the second and third quarters, but Greenwich seemed to be pulling away to start the fourth. Back-to-back layups by Hyatt and Griffin Golden, as well as foul shot from Alec Oropall and another three-pointer from Harkin at the top of the key pushed the Cardinal lead to 54-45.

But that’s when SJHS came storming back with a 8-0 run. Leading the charge was Sulik, who was clutch at the charity stripe. Six of the eight points were from Sulik at the foul line. while Telfer started the run with a layup darting to the basket with 4:41 to play.

“We had to call timeout and straighten them out,” Heaton said. “Last week against Warde, we had a four-point lead in overtime and we talked about what we need to do. We are used to being in those situations, so I am proud that tonight we composed ourselves. We had guys step up on offense and defense and we were able to get the win.”

Although Griffin Golden hit the backdoor layup off a nice pass from Hyatt to give GHS the lead, the Cadets answered when Sulik was again fouled and connected on both his foul shots.

With 1:03 to play, a layup from Kieran Carroll underneath the basket gave the Cards the 59-57 lead and St. Joe’s was unable to answer, as a baseline three-pointer and a running layup in the final minute never found the back of the net.

“We re 1-10 and there has to be a day where maybe one of the guys might say ‘You know what? Let’s step it up as a group and try to win a game.’ but we are not really seeing that, so maybe it’s me,” Watts said. “Maybe I don’t motivate them and not putting them in good positions to win games.

“I told the guys that we’ve had enough moral victories,” Watts added. “We need to start winning games. We need to start taking care of what we need to take care of. All the moral victories we are done with. We need to get quality wins. We are talented enough where we are going to give teams problems, but we have to start sealing the deal.”

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