Kennedy, Holy Cross boys ready for state hoop quarterfinal tussles

Kennedy’s Hikim Trueheart, left (shooting a 3-pointer), and Holy Cross’ Elijah Parker, right, are ready to lead their teams in Division II state quarterfinal games on Monday. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, file)

Two Waterbury boys’ basketball teams will attempt to advance to the semifinal round of their state tournament bracket Monday.

Both teams are in Division II, and both come from the west side, mere minutes apart from each other. At 6:30 p.m., No. 4 Kennedy (20-5) is scheduled to tip off against No. 5 Xavier-Middletown (18-5) in its quarterfinal game in the Jack Taglia Gymnasium. At 7 p.m., No. 2 Holy Cross (20-4) faces No. 7 Staples-Westport (19-6) in the Timothy J. McDonald Gymnasium. Here’s more on each game:

No. 4 Kennedy vs. No. 5 Xavier-Middletown

The Falcons were the No. 5 seed going into the ultra-competitive Southern Connecticut Conference tournament. That earned them a first round bye, but they drew No. 4 Fairfield Prep in their quarterfinal game. Xavier’s stay in the SCC tournament lasted just one game.

Xavier started the Division II state tournament with a 68-57 home win over No. 28 Amistad. In the second round, the Falcons rallied past No. 12 Southington of the Central Connecticut Conference, 56-47. Xavier got off to a horrible start and trailed by 14 points after just one quarter. The Falcons’ deficit was still 11 points, 27-16, at halftime, but they came back to tie the game at 36-36 with 5:52 to play. From there, Xavier outscored Southington, 20-11, to seal the win.

The Falcons are led by 6-foot-1 senior Anthony Parker, a first team All-SCC honoree, and 6-foot-3 senior Aidan Driscoll, a second team selection.

Kennedy blasted No. 29 Greenwich of the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, 79-45, in the first round. In the second round, the Eagles ran past No. 13 Middletown of the CCC, 80-55. Kennedy has been led by 6-foot junior guard Hikim Trueheart and 6-foot-4 senior big man Lennox Serrano, the Connie Donahue Award winner as top NVL senior. Both Trueheart and Serrano were first team All-NVL honorees. The Eagles-Falcons winner would face the winner of No. 1 St. Bernard-Uncasville and No. 8 Windsor in the semifinal round on March 15.

No. 2 Holy Cross vs. No. 7 Staples-Westport

The Wreckers earned the No. 4 seed in the FCIAC tournament and opened with a 53-43 win over No. 5 Wilton. In the semifinal round, Staples upended No. 1 Ridgefield, 71-54, to earn a shot at the title against No. 3 Danbury. The Hatters pulled away for a 69-53 win over the Wreckers.

Staples coasted to a 74-39 win over No. 26 Manchester of the CCC in the first round. In the second round, the Wreckers got past No. 23 RHAM-Hebron, also from the CCC, 69-62. The Raptors upset No. 10 Enfield of the CCC in the first round, 61-52.

Staples is led by 6-foot-8 senior Chris Zajac, a first team All-FCIAC selection who was also on the all-defensive team. Five-foot-10 senior Cody Sale was third team All-FCIAC.

Holy Cross ran all over No. 31 St. Joseph-Trumbull, 82-42, in the first round. The Crusaders outscored the Cadets, 49-25, in the second half. Holy Cross won a low-scoring affair against No. 18 Conard-West Hartford, 42-28, in the second round.

Holy Cross is led by 6-foot-2 sophomore Elijah Parker, a first team All-NVL selection for the second straight season. They have also been paced by 6-foot-1 senior Derone Fordham, an All-Brass Division choice.

Notes: NVL champion WCA is the No. 2 seed in Division III and reached the semifinal round with a 64-63 win over No. 7 Killingly at Kennedy High School. The Spartans face No. 6 Platt-Meriden and will be making their first state semifinal appearance since 2017, when they lost, 67-60, in Class S to eventual state champion Trinity Catholic-Stamford.

Now here’s the issue … when will WCA play its semifinal game? It’s scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Naugatuck High School. A Nor’easter is slated to hit the area from Monday afternoon to Wednesday morning, and that could affect the state tournament schedule. Stay tuned, but it seems to be a pretty good bet that WCA won’t be playing Tuesday night.