Week 6 boys basketball recap: E.O. Smith improving, Northwest Catholic wins a close one vs. Bloomfield

Last year, the E.O. Smith boys basketball team struggled. The long-time coach of the program, Ron Pires, left the team early in the season due to medical issues, an interim coach took over and the Panthers only won one game.

Pires coached one last game, the final game of the season, and retired; he passed away in November. Jeff Belanger, who coached at Windham Tech for 29 years, took over as coach.

E.O. Smith is 3-3 this season, after pulling out a 64-60 win over Rocky Hill Friday.

“December was, ‘let’s see what we have,’” Belanger said. “We’ve been kind of putting everything out there, seeing what we’re good at, what we’re not so good at, trying to figure it out because we didn’t know the kids really that well coming in.

“We’re about to start Week 7. We’re starting to get a feel for ‘OK, these guys are good at this, let’s take this out, let’s add this.’ We’re learning how to win.”

Senior Noah Cordone had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Rocky Hill game. Belanger also has what he calls the “B Boys:” his son Cam Belanger, a sophomore; Joey Baker (who had 18 points Friday, eight in the fourth quarter) and point guard Aiden Spruell (whose nickname is Buda, so that’s the ‘B’ connection). Another sophomore, 6-5 Camden Mazerolle, broke his wrist in the Maloney game last month but Belanger is hoping to get him back by the end of the season.

“It was such a young team last year; they only had one senior,” Belanger said. “A lot of the kids contributing now are sophomores. Last year, they were freshmen and they weren’t ready to play varsity. They’ve grown up a little bit.”

And why leave Windham Tech after coaching there so long?

“I’m getting toward the end of my teaching career, and I wanted to try out a bigger pond and I don’t think there’s a bigger pond in Connecticut than the CCC,” said Belanger, who still teaches at the tech school. “They’ve always had some really talented kids at that school.”

Top performances

Colby Dunnack, Windham Tech: Dunnack had a double-double (20 rebounds, 16 points) and added seven blocks in a 97-55 win over Ellis Tech Friday.

Conner Evans, Lewis Mills: Evans had 26 points in a 70-44 win over Bristol Central Friday and 28 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks in a 55-51 win over Bristol Eastern Wednesday.

Da’mnic Gittens, Cheney Tech: Gittens had 21 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a 45-36 win over Woodstock Academy Saturday and 22 points and seven rebounds in an 102-33 victory over Vinal Tech Friday.

Elias Houle, Stafford: Houle had 17 rebounds and 10 points as Stafford handed East Windsor its first loss Wednesday, 51-40.

Jason Mahon, Enfield: Mahon scored 37 points in a 71-67 victory over Glastonbury Thursday.

Gianni Mirabello, Northwest Catholic: Mirabello had 31 points in an 86-77 win over Hall Wednesday.

Jack Nye, Morgan: Nye had a double-double (24 points, 15 rebounds) and added three assists in a 65-44 victory over Valley Regional Friday.

Victor Payne, Cromwell: Payne had 29 points in a 60-41 win over Haddam-Killingworth Friday.

Josiah Sims, Newington: Sims had 19 rebounds and 16 points, his seventh double-double of the season, in Newington’s 60-57 loss to Manchester.

Shaheim Wilson, Weaver: Wilson had 17 points in an 88-58 win over Classical Wednesday and 33 points in a 90-57 win over Capital Prep Friday to boost Weaver’s record to 5-0.

Storylines of the week

Northwest Catholic (5-0) held off Bloomfield 54-51 Friday night in Northwest Catholic’s closest game of the season behind 17 points from Liam Conklin. “It was an exciting finish,” Northwest coach John Mirabello said. “Bloomfield made two defensive stands with us up one point then Sean Akey made two clutch free throws with 12 seconds left.” Bloomfield gets another tough one Monday against East Catholic.

Glastonbury junior guard David Smith, who is averaging 27 points and nine rebounds per game, had 43 points for the Guardians Thursday but his team lost to Enfield 71-67. Coach Jim Vaughan said he believes the point total is a school record.

Somers postponed its game against Ellington Wednesday after a house fire claimed the lives of four young children Tuesday who attended school in town. The Spartans will resume their schedule Tuesday at East Windsor.

Games to watch

Northwest Catholic (5-0) vs. Pope Francis Prep (7-1) at the Hoophall Classic, Springfield, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.: Northwest Catholic heads back to the Hoophall Classic Thursday to go up against Pope Francis of Springfield, which won the Western Mass. Class A championship last year, at Springfield’s Blake Arena.

East Catholic (7-0) vs. Christ the King (8-1) at the Hoophall Classic, Springfield, Friday, 3 p.m.: East Catholic puts its unbeaten record on the line against Christ the King (N.Y.) at Springfield College gym.

Windsor (8-0) vs. North High School (7-0) at the Hoophall Classic, Springfield, Thursday, 6:45 p.m.: Unbeaten Windsor takes on the Polar Bears of Worcester’s North High School Thursday at the Hoophall at Springfield College.