COMMENTARY: It was great to have NVL boys quarterfinal round back at Wilby

The introduction of the starting lineups were made to cheering fans. Each 3-pointer, dunk and blocked shot was celebrated by the roar of the crowd.

The NVL boys basketball tournament had its quarterfinal round games Saturday at Wilby’s Reggie O’Brien Gymnasium, and with it one of the best local sports days returned. I couldn’t have been happier that this long, tiring day was back.

When third-seeded Crosby and sixth-seeded St. Paul tipped off in the day’s first quarterfinal at 11 a.m., it was the first time the tournament had returned in full to its rightful home since the 2019-2020 season. A lot has happened since that season, most of it shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we all know, nearly all of the 2020 state tournament was wiped out. There was an NVL tournament in the shortened 2021 season, but it wasn’t the same. All games were played at the site of the higher seed, and fans were mostly watching games on livestreams from home. A feel-good story emerged when Sacred Heart won in its final appearance before the school was closed, but the overall tournament just wasn’t the same.

That’s what made Saturday feel so good. I got to Wilby in advance of the first game and was more than happy to converse with coaches, athletic directors and others before my busy day writing and shooting video for The Hoop Zone began. I was able to take some photos for my Facebook page, when I had a chance, but for the whole time, I enjoyed the atmosphere that existed inside the gym.

The crowds got larger as the day moved along, with plenty of supporters in the building for city schools Kennedy, Holy Cross and WCA, along with Naugatuck, whose fans always travel well (and why wouldn’t they? This year’s version of the Greyhounds is spectacular!). The crowd was a little sparse for the 11 a.m. game, but then again, it always seems to be.

Five local teams played on Saturday, including two games where they were matched up against each other. Crosby, No. 2 Kennedy and No. 5 WCA advanced to Monday’s semifinal round, along with top-seeded Naugatuck. The Bulldogs and Eagles play at 5:30 p.m. while the Spartans and Greyhounds are slated for 7:30 p.m.

SATURDAY’S LOCAL RESULTS (high scorers in parentheses)
No. 3 Crosby 64, No. 6 St. Paul 52 (C – Jonathan Rivera 33; SP – Jamie Leggett 16)
No. 2 Kennedy 103, No. 7 Ansonia 56 (K – Dayven Zielinski 21)
No. 5 WCA 84, No. 4 Holy Cross 76 (W – Jason Canady 21; HC – Ashton Sannasi and Elijah Parker, 21)

GALLERY: Here are my photos from Saturday’s quarterfinal round.

Photo caption: WCA’s Sonny Pierce handles the ball against Holy Cross’ Zac Blaschke during their NVL tournament quarterfinal game at Wilby High School. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)