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St. Bernard draws No. 6 seed in Division I state tournament, hoping to get back to Mohegan

Feb. 28—St. Bernard coach Mark Jones said his team enjoys playing at Mohegan Sun Arena. And why wouldn't it?

"We like it because if we come here, that means we're winning," Jones said after the Saints' victory in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I boys' basketball championship game Tuesday night before a crowd of 4,034 at the Sun.

"... It's always good to play here, too, because if you're gonna play here and you plan on playing here for a state championship, it's good to be familiar with the floor and everything because it's different. Kids don't normally get a chance to play on a professional floor."

And now for the Saints to get back there for a chance at a state title the weekend of March 16-17.

Sixth-seeded St. Bernard (20-3) will open the Division I tournament against No. 11 Crosby in a second-round matchup at 6:30 p.m. March 7 at home. The Saints won the Division II state championship at Mohegan Sun last season against Staples, giving the program its first title since 1982. This season, based on that success, Jones' team moved up to the highest level of competition.

"It's a monster playing at the Division I level," Jones said. "There's no cake walks. There's no easy games. You've got to play hard every single game.

"We've gotta do the same things we've been doing, playing defense, playing together. Sometimes in the game, you need a little bit of luck, too. We're on the right track. I just want us to keep getting better every single day."

St. Bernard defeated Fitch 72-39 Tuesday, led by Most Outstanding Player Curtis Marshall. Tyler Mangual led four players in double figures with 15 points.

No. 6 New London will open play in the Division II tournament Monday at home against No. 27 Bloomfield and Norwich Free Academy travels to No. 13 Glastonbury also Monday.

In Division III, the first round is highlighted by a matchup between rivals East Lyme, the No. 11 seed, and No. 22 Waterford. That game will be played at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at East Lyme. Also, No. 9 Fitch plays at home Tuesday against No. 24 Windham, No. 7 Stonington hosts No. 26 Maloney and No. 10 Griswold plays at home against No. 23 Amity.

Wheeler, crowned the champion of the ECC Division II tournament Tuesday with a win over Stonington, drew the No. 9 seed in the state Division IV tournament and will open at home against No. 24 Plainville at 6:30 p.m. Monday. No. 31 Bacon Academy travels to No. 2 Cromwell.

No. 3 Old Lyme, No. 14 Grasso Tech and No. 21 Norwich Tech will all play in Division V. Old Lyme will have a bye in the first round before facing either Grasso Tech or No. 19 HMTCA in the second round March 7.

v.fulkerson@theday.com