Boys’ basketball defeats number one team in Connecticut at nationwide tournament


Jacob Wu

Boys’ basketball defeated Northwest Catholic in an intense back and forth game 67-59 in the Spalding HoopHall Classic tournament Thursday, January 12 away at Springfield College, the birthplace of basketball itself.

The HoopHall classic tournament gathers the best teams from around the nation for a 5 day tournament to showcase their talents for the country to see. The last time North was invited to this prestigious event was in 2018, and overall this is North’s 6th time at this tournament.

Both Northwest Catholic and Newton North came into this game ranked in the top three in their respective states, Northwest Catholic being number one in Connecticut, and Newton North number three in Massachusetts. Additionally, the Northwest Catholic team also boasted the number one player in Connecticut, sophomore Badara Diakite, adding to the excitement heading into the match.

“Obviously, with their size and roster, we knew what type of game it was going to be. We needed to play together and put pressure on their players that they weren’t used to,” said senior Lucas Wardly.

The game kicked off with North winning the opening tipoff. Senior Will Davis, a captain along with seniors Jose Padilla, Victor Caira, and Tyler Randall, quickly put up two tough baskets in the paint propelling North to an early lead. Northwest Catholic responded to North’s hot start with a couple of turnovers and two threes in transition. Randall stopped Northwest Catholics’ 6-0 run by hitting a clutch three, making it 7-6 in favor of the Tigers.

Despite letting up two three pointers, North’s defense played an impressive first quarter, holding Northwest Catholic scoreless for the rest of the quarter. The Tigers consistently forced Northwest Catholic into tough shots and poor decisions, resulting in frequent turnovers.

Northwest Catholic also had an impressive defense of its own, using their vertical size as their biggest strength to block shots and cause turnovers. The first quarter ended with North up 12-6.

In the second quarter, North continued to play aggressive defense. Ciara caused Diakite noticeable discomfort by constantly getting in his airspace.

“He’s obviously a very talented player so I knew what I was coming into. I just had to be very physical to limit his touches and keep him off the glass. When he would score I would take it personally while also having the next play mentality to just not let him score again.” said Caira

The offense was able to capitalize upon the defense that managed to get into Northwest Catholic’s passing lanes which resulted in Landry’s second three Pointer from the corner, and a layup in transition forcing Northwest Catholic to call a timeout to talk things over.

Coming out of the time out, North’s offense still managed to hurt Northwest Catholic’s 2-3 zone from the three point line. Northwest Catholic consistently found themselves over helping at the three point line, which gave Landry enough space to knock down multiple corner threes in the second quarter. 

The Tigers’ ability to play unselfishly was displayed when Randall took a huge charge near the end of the half, leading to a Padilla three on the other side of the court, extending North’s lead to 23-14. The Tigers ended the half up 23-17 after a Northwest Catholic three pointer.

Northwest Catholic started the second half off hot with a steal and layup in transition. Then an and-one layup, cutting North’s lead down to 23-22. North could not maintain their lead and ended the third quarter down 34-33. Both teams made an impressive number of three point shots in a high scoring fourth quarter. Both Landry and Padilla caught fire in the fourth quarter with multiple big shots when North needed it the most, but down the final stretch of regulation, Padilla was especially dominant. 

Down by two possessions with a minute left on the clock, Padilla hit a big three off a high screen pick and roll action on the right wing cutting Northwest Catholic’s lead to one, 48-47. Padilla then got a layup to go while getting fouled with 14.2 seconds left on the clock, tying the game back up. After another strong possession on defense, the game went into overtime.

North started overtime off strong, with Randall hitting a tough layup and Landry getting a steal on the other side of the ball. After a tough Mirabello midrange, Padilla then made a three-pointer, giving North the lead 55-52 with 1:12 left on the clock.

Immediately after the three pointer, Davis got into the passing lane forcing yet another turnover, but North could not capitalize on it. With only four seconds left on the game clock, and one second left on the shot clock, Diakite threw up a desperation three from 25 feet out, somehow managing to bank the shot in. The end of first overtime ended with the score still tied, 55-55.

Padilla missed a layup to start the second overtime period, but Davis was there for the board to put it back up for two. Junior London Jemison of Northwest Catholic then responded with a runner tying up the game. 

A Padilla two and clutch three from Randall put North up five, 62-57, with 1:34 on the game clock. Northwest Catholic tried their best to dig out of this hole, but they were forced to foul, putting a multitude of North players at the free throw line. North came away with the victory 67-59 at the end of the second overtime.

This was day one and game one of the Hoophall classic and according to Davis, “We definitely wanted to set the tone coming into the tournament, we wanted to set the tone just in general, but I think we more so wanted to just be the best, which is what I think we just did.”