Spartans top Eagles for first NVL title


Waterbury Career Academy has only been playing varsity boys’ basketball since the 2016-17 season, but the Spartans have had a meteoric rise.

WCA finished as the top team in the Naugatuck Valley League in the regular season and earned the tournament’s top seed. The Spartans turned that top seed into their first NVL championship on Thursday night when they beat second-seeded Kennedy, 68-57, in front of a sizable crowd inside the Reggie O’Brien Gymnasium at Wilby.

WCA did it with tremendous offensive balance, something that has been a trademark for them in the 2022-23 season. Tournament MVP Sonny Pierce led the Spartans with 19 points, 15 of them in a torrid second half. Pierce was joined in double figures by Zaire Lott (18), Jason Canady (14) and Drew Williams (13). The quartet combined to score 64 of the team’s 68 points.

WCA had to deal with adversity in the final thanks to Kennedy. The Eagles had the Spartans down by four points, 34-28, at halftime. That advantage grew to 38-28 before WCA began its comeback. The Spartans did so by getting hot behind the three-point line. That was especially true of Pierce, who made all four of his 3-pointers after halftime.

The game was still tight in the fourth quarter, and Kennedy had a 53-52 lead until Canady drained a 3-pointer from the left wing across from his team’s bench for a 55-53 WCA advantage. The Spartans outscored the Eagles, 13-4, the rest of the way to claim their first championship.

Kennedy’s Hikim Trueheart led all scorers with 23 points. He was the lone Eagle in double figures. Johnarieus Davis had nine points while Lennox Serrano and Isaiah Tucker added eight points apiece.

Next up for both teams is the state tournament. WCA is the No. 2 seed in Division III and could wind up playing Darien, a team Lott beat with a banked 3-pointer at the buzzer in last year’s tournament, in the second round of this year’s tournament. The Spartans have a first round bye and await the winner of No. 18 Darien and No. 15 Prince Tech. 

Kennedy is the No. 4 seed in Division II and opens with a home game against No. 29 Greenwich, also from the FCIAC.

GALLERY: Here are my photos from Thursday’s NVL final.

Caption: WCA’s Sonny Pierce keeps his eyes on Kennedy’s Hikim Trueheart during Thursday night’s NVL boys’ basketball tournament final at Wilby High School. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)