Despite Donovan Clingan’s 21 points, Connecticut loses to New Jersey 99-89 at Bridgeport JCC Schoolboy Classic – Hartford Courant
BRIDGEPORT — In the first of what could be many battles to come for future Big East rivals, Mark Armstrong has won the battle against Donovan Clingan.
At the 59th Bridgeport JCC Schoolboy Classic, the Connecticut All-Stars lost 99-89 to the New Jersey All-Stars at St. Joseph’s High School. Armstrong led New Jersey with 32 points. Clingan was Connecticut’s leading scorer with 21 points.
With just over a minute to play, New Jersey’s Derek Simpson rumbled down the hall and kicked the dunk to tie the score, 87-87. On the next possession, Armstrong rolled a 3 to give New Jersey the lead for the first time since the first quarter. After a Connecticut misfire, Armstrong was fouled while driving to the hoop and made both free throws. Then, with 37 seconds left, he made a monster dunk to put New Jersey up 94-89 and seal the game.
Armstrong won the Milt August MVP Award. Villanova’s commitment showed a wide variety of skills, from his ability to execute an offense to his elite athleticism. Additionally, he was tapped and locked in defensively, leading to turnovers in Connecticut.
“I felt like I was having fun and playing free trying to play point guard,” he said. “Let my guys get involved by shooting the ball and getting into the flow of the game.
“I arrived trying to play well with my teammates and have fun. I wasn’t really looking for a goalscoring title or anything like that. I just play with my Jersey boys.
Armstrong had a message for Villanova fans.
“I feel good at Villanova because of the family atmosphere they have there, and I feel welcome there,” he said. “The support system is crazy for the basketball team. I’m just ready to work.
Clingan has shown the ability to impact the game without taking a lot of hits. Once doubled, the UConn commit would quickly transition to open man. He played in the flow of the attack all game. He even took a few jumps, making a 3.
On the defensive side, he was a deterrent around the edge with blocks. He fought hard on the glass to bring hard rebounds.
“I played well,” he said. “I wish I could have hit a few more shots. My form felt good; it just didn’t fit.
Clingan is ready for whatever comes next.
“My high school career is over, and it feels weird, but it was one hell of a high school career and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”
Going into the game, Connecticut was in control, building a lead behind transition opportunities through rebounds and turnovers. Then, slowly, New Jersey began to reduce its lead. His half-court offense presented problems for Connecticut, leading to easy field goals. At the end of the first, Connecticut was leading, 22-17.
New Jersey struggled to stop Connecticut’s offense in the second quarter. When Connecticut missed, offensive rebounds often led to second-chance opportunities. With just under 3 minutes to go, Naugatuck’s Avery Hinnant converted a tough second-chance bucket on the inside to give Connecticut a 42-29 lead.
Connecticut entered the half with a 49-37 lead. Armstrong had 12 points in the first half, while Clingan also led Connecticut with 12.
The third quarter showcased the offensive prowess of both teams. Armstrong hit a hard stepping back 3 to cut Connecticut’s lead to 73-63. Connecticut responded with a timely field goal whenever New Jersey looked like they were about to tie the score. At the end of the third, Connecticut led 74-66.
With just under six minutes left in the game, Armstrong hit a 3 to make it an 80-78 Connecticut lead. On the next possession, New Jersey’s Simpson stole the ball to tie it at 80. Connecticut quickly responded with a 5-0 run. With 2:27 left in the game, Connecticut led 87-84.