Boys Basketball Wins NEPSAC Class C Championship
For only the second time in school history, Harvey has won the NEPSAC Class C boys basketball championship. The Cavaliers, the No. 4 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Lexington Christian Academy 59-55 Sunday, March 5, in Worcester, Massachusetts, to earn a special place in Harvey School history, right next to the first team to be New England champions, the 1994-95 squad.
The Cavs, who earned the No. 4 seed after capturing their first-ever Housatonic Valley Athletic League title, came into the championship game as a slight underdog, especially since they had to go up against the team that just knocked off the three-time reigning NEPSAC champion and No. 2 seed Hyde School earlier in the day in their semifinal matchup.
Harvey fans in attendance at the Worcester Academy gym and those watching on Livestream were biting their nails early as the Cavs and LCA Lions traded baskets in the first five minutes before sophomore point guard Jonah Kass hit his second shot from long distance to give his team a 10-6 lead. As it turned out, that 3-pointer from the Class C Tournament MVP proved to be a turning point as Harvey never trailed in the game again Kass later sank a third 3-pointer and finished the first half with 14 points. He would go to tally a team-leading 22 points for the Cavs.
Things were looking bright for the Cavs when they built up a 10-point lead with just four minutes to play in the opening half. But Harvey hit a bit of a cold spell on offense and LCA took advantage of some sloppy ball-handling on Harvey’s part to cut the deficit down to just five points by halftime. The Cavs led 28-23 at intermission.
Kass continued to lead Harvey’s offense in the second half, scoring nine more points. Senior captain Kirk Ortega, who was cold in the first half, got hot in the second half, along with senior point forward Sukie Vongveeranonchai. Ortega scored 11 of his 15 total points and Sukie added six more to help the Cavs maintain their lead as the Lions continued to look crisper on offense and stay within striking distance of Harvey.
When LCA cut Harvey’s lead down to just one, 41-40 with 9:35 to play, it was Kass and Ortega who hit shots to help the Cavs go on a 7-0 run to give them a 48-40 lead with seven minutes remaining. Three minutes later, a basket from Kass made it 52-43, the biggest lead Harvey had since midway through the first half. But the Lions scored five straight points to make it a 52-48 game with just under four minutes left.
As LCA scored on their possessions in the last two minutes, Ortega, Sukie, and Kass hit their shots to frustrate the Lions in their attempt to get the game tied as time was running out. Cavs center Olaf Gorski also made it tough on the Lions when he continued to make his presence felt underneath the basket, blocking several shots, grabbing key rebounds, and putting up eight points.
At 58-55 and just 1.2 seconds left with Kass dribbling around the floor to run out the clock, LCA finally fouled Harvey’s hottest shooter. The fouling strategy was much too late in coming. Kass hit his foul shot to make it a four-point lead with not enough time left on the clock to give LCA a chance to overcome the deficit. When the buzzer sounded ending the game, Harvey’s bench stormed midcourt to join their teammates on the floor in joyous celebration of winning the NEPSAC Class Championship.
“Words can’t describe how proud I am of this team,” said Harvey head coach Denis Arnautovic. “They battled all season long and got rewarded in the end. We are bringing the NEPSAC championship back to Harvey!”
The coach also went on to thank athletic director Ray Lacen for his “tremendous support.’” He also thanked his assistant coach Connor Welles, saying, “His dedication and hard work helped us tremendously.”
Harvey, 11-1 against HVAL opponents, finished the season winning six straight and ending with an overall record of 16-9.