HAMDEN — Jarrad Beck says his Hamden basketball team is playing angry right now. The head coach is not mad about it either.
Playing with their backs against the wall due to some agonizing losses, the Green Dragons are playing as if they are on a mission — the postseason.
Led by a 21-5 run in the fourth quarter, the Green Dragons turned what was a close game into a 47-32 victory over Branford at Hamden High Friday night.
With the win, Hamden keeps its slim playoff hopes alive with a 6-12 record.
The Green Dragons need to win their last two games, including tomorrow afternoon against the state’s top team, undefeated Fairfield Prep.
“We are playing angry right now,” Beck said. “The coaches and the players are angry and that’s a good thing.
“When we stay with a solid offense and play good defense that gives us a shot. What we are limited in with skill, we make up with size.”
Trailing 27-26 after three quarters and with the season on the line, Hamden came out a different team in the fourth quarter. Aaron Green and Robert Brown were two forces in the final quarter, combining for 15 points, with Green picking up eight.
The duo also played brilliant defense in the final quarter. Each time Branford tried to penetrate inside, Green and Brown were there for an emphatic defensive play.
“It’s interesting,” Branford coach Jake Palluzzi said after his team fell to 10-10 with its fifth loss in the last seven games. “The last time we played them it was the third quarter which hurt us. I forgot to tell them how important the fourth quarter is.
“They are a good team. They were playing with confidence after beating New London last night. We knew they were much better than their record.”
The Green Dragons opened the final quarter with a 9-2 run to take a 35-29 lead on a pair of free throws by Blair Johnson. Green put Hamden on top 40-31, then added an emphatic dunk with 46 seconds remaining for a 44-31 lead.
“They were bigger, tougher and stronger in the fourth quarter,” Palluzzi said. “We could not score. They made it hard. I was a little disappointed with the toughness of the team in the fourth quarter.”
With the first step toward the postseason done, Hamden now has to win its final two games to continue playing.
“We have played better the last couple of games,” Beck said. “Today was a good example of how we can do when we play smart. We need to play hard and make smart choices to win.”
Hamden got off to a quick start in the game, leading 10-4 after one quarter.
The opening quarter saw free throws by Branford’s Kory King and Jonathan Fuller get the Hornets within 6-4, before Shaun Crocker grabbed a rebound off a missed free throw and gave the Green Dragons a 10-4 lead.
The Hornets squad turned the game around for a short period of time in the second quarter, outscoring Hamden by a margin of 17-6 for a 21-16 halftime lead.
Fuller was the catalyst in the quarter for Branford with seven points, including five of those points in Branford’s 9-0 run to open the second half.
The Green Dragons outscored Branford 10-6 in the third quarter, but still trailed by one point. Johnson opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and Green followed with a basket to even the game at 21.
Two buckets by Restinel Lomotey gave the Hornets a 27-23 advantage before Johnson closed the quarter with another 3-pointer.
Green led Hamden with 14 points, while Johnson had 13 and Brown nine for Hamden. Lomotey led Branford with 16 points and Fuller had 10 for Branford.