Sacred Heart boys make the plays necessary to outlast Windsor, reach Class L semifinals (VIDEO LINKS)

Sacred Heart’s Omar Rowe (13), Peyton Stephens (12) and Courie Stevenson (5)
all came up with plays to help the Hearts on Monday.

The top-seeded Sacred Heart boys basketball team faced its toughest challenge so far in the Class L state tournament Monday night against No. 9 Windsor.
After an ugly first quarter, the Warriors showed they wanted to play, and they wanted to end the Hearts’ run of three straight state championships.

Stevenson looks on as Isaiah Gaiter drives to the basket.

Big plays from a slew of Hearts made sure that didn’t happen, and Sacred Heart outlasted Windsor 58-52.
Isaiah Gaiter led the Hearts with 16 points. Courie Stevenson contributed 13 points while Legend Johnson had 12 points. Mikey West tallied nine points while Omar Rowe put in eight points. Peyton Stephens, Tariq West and Andre Anderson didn’t score, but they all contributed with hustle and effort in their time on the floor.
Sacred Heart (26-0) will play No. 4 Bloomfield in a Class L semifinal. The game is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Hartford’s Bulkeley High School, but don’t be surprised if it gets changed because of today’s blizzard.
So, about those big plays. Here’s a sample:

  • After Windsor ripped of a 7-0 run for a 40-38 lead late in the third quarter, Stevenson drove to the basket and scores to tie the game at 40.
  • Stevenson put a wicked crossover on a Warrior defender and drained a 3. The Hearts lead 47-45 with just under six minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
  • Gaiter stole a ball from behind, then went all the way for a layup. Sacred Heart takes over the lead for good, 51-50 with 3:18 to play.
Sacred Heart’s SuperFans (student section) try to coax a miss
from Windsor’s Darien Earlington.
And then there was this play. Up a point, the Hearts took a bunch of time off of the clock. Gaiter drove toward the hoop and pulled up. His shot was a miss, but Johnson came flying in for the rebound. Johnson went up strong through the foul and connected with 1:52 to go. Even with a Windsor timeout, Johnson completed the three-point play to put his side up 54-50.
“When you give your all, that’s what it is right there,” Johnson said.
Johnson knew a play needed to be made.
“I just felt that way, and got it in,” Johnson said.
“That’s him being a senior, the ability to be strong, and to come up with a big play at a big time,” Sacred Heart head coach Jon Carroll said.
In that sequence, Carroll said the Hearts showed they can play fast, but slow the pace when needed.
“When you get to this point in the tournament, you have to be able to play both ways,” Carroll said.
Rowe provided two big plays in just over 33 seconds. At the 1:13 mark with the Hearts up by two, Rowe converted a Gaiter pass into a basket and the foul. The bucket put Sacred Heart up 56-52. Rowe missed the foul shot, but more than made up for it. 
At the other end, Rowe took a charge on Windsor’s George Gamble with 39.8 left. Gamble, who had four fouls in the first half, fouled out on the play. 
“Omar Rowe, difference maker on rebounds and taking offensive fouls,” Carroll said.
Carroll has said the Hearts need contributions from everyone, and that’s not just points. In the first half, Stephens drew a big offensive foul. 
To win a fourth straight title, Sacred Heart needs all hands on deck. The Hearts got enough of that to take care of the Warriors and reach the semifinal round. Next up, at some point this week, is Middletown.