Schools Sports

Both Northwest Catholic Boys and Girls Basketball on ‘Run for the Sun’

Captain Gianni Mirabello in the NWC Lions semifinal win over Notre Dame of West Haven. Photo credit: Rob Perry

The Northwest Catholic girls and boys basketball teams will be competing at Mohegan Sun on Saturday in the CIAC basketball championships.

The NWC Lions girls basketball team at the CIAC banquet. Photo credit: Rob Perry

By Ronni Newton. Photos courtesy of Rob Perry/Northwest Catholic

The Lions will be roaring Saturday at Mohegan Sun, as both the girls and the boys from West Hartford’s Northwest Catholic High School will compete in the CIAC state championships.

The No. 10 seeded NWC girls (16-8) will be up first – meeting No. 16 seed Kolbe Cathedral High School of Bridgeport (14-10) for a 3 p.m. start in the Class S championship. The Lions punched their ticket to the finals on Tuesday night with a 65-56 upset win over No. 3 Somers. That win came after a decisive 67-38 upset of No. 2 seed Thomaston in the quarterfinals.

Abigail Casper. Photo credit: Rob Perry

NWC girls have won their last six games after losing five straight in late January and early February.

Alison Connors, who was hired as head coach for Northwest Catholic in 2021, is a West Hartford native and 2013 graduate of the school. Last year the team lost in the first round of the CIAC Class L state tournament.

Maeve Staunton. Photo credit: Rob Perry

The last time the Northwest Catholic girls reached the CIAC championships was in 2015, when they lost to Capital Prep in Class L. They previously reached the finals in 2002 and lost to East Catholic in Class M. In 1999, the NWC girls won the Class M championship, defeating New Fairfield, 58-40.

Captain Brooke Popella. Photo credit: Rob Perry

The Northwest Catholic boys (21-2), under the helm of veteran coach John Mirabello, return to the championship game for the second year in a row, this time in the CIAC’s top division. Last year they lost to Bristol Central, 56-36, with 25 of Bristol Central’s points scored by 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan, now a UConn freshman.

Badara Diakite. Photo credit: Rob Perry

The team also reached the finals in 2012 and 2011, coming in as Class L runners-up both years. They last won a state championship in 2003, beating Wilbur Cross 73-71 in overtime in Class L. NWC also won in 2002 and 2000, both time Class M victories over Trinity Catholic.

Captain Gianni Mirabello. Photo credit: Rob Perry

To reach the 2023 title match in Division I, the No. 2 seeded Lions defeated Notre Dame of West Haven 73-61 on Wednesday in the semifinals at the University of Hartford.

Captain London Jemison (#1) had a great game scoring 24 points. Northwest never trailed their lead starting the game on a 9-0 run against Notre Dame. At one point Notre Dame came within one point and NWC pulled away. They played great team basketball on both ends of the court.

London Jemison. photo credit: Rob Perry

The NWC boys will face No. 1 seed East Catholic (22-1) at 8:15 p.m. for the championship at Mohegan Sun Arena. Other than a loss to Newton North (Massachusetts) in January, the Lions’ only loss this season was to East Catholic on Feb. 14.

This is the first time in more than 20 years – since 2002 – that Northwest Catholic has had both the girls and the boys teams playing in the championship game.

CIAC spokesperson John Holt said although there are some schools that have traditionally strong girls and boys programs, it’s not common for both teams to make the finals in the same year. “It has happened, it’s not unprecedented,” he said.

In 2010 both the Hillhouse girls and boys played for a championship, with the girls winning and the boys coming in as runners-up.

Amanda Sirica contributed to this report.

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NWC coach John Mirabello. Photo credit: Rob Perry

Northwest Catholic girls. Photo credit: Rob Perry

Badara Diakite. Photo credit: Rob Perry

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