NORTH BRANFORD >> The North Branford boys basketball team matched last season’s win total with a 56-34 Shoreline Conference victory over Portland on Tuesday night at North Branford High School.
Junior guard Brett LeQuire poured in a game-high 22 points, while junior Jake Haeckel scored all 17 of his points in the second half while fueling a decisive 13-0 third quarter run for the T-birds (6-3).
“The kids are playing well,” said North Branford coach Dave Parness, now in his fourth season. “They’re playing hard and doing what we ask them to do.”
Senior forward Roland Thivierge scored 11 points and junior guard Dylan Curtin chipped in eight points for the Highlanders (3-6).
“There’s some things we have to work on in terms of our team structure that we’ll be working on this week,” Portland coach Chris Serrra said. “We need to learn how to put four quarters together and do the little things.”
Portland was coming off a nice overtime win over Old Lyme and a corner trey from Curtin gave the Highlanders a 18-13 lead late in the second quarter. Portland’s zone defense gave the T-birds fits in the opening half and the Highlanders led 20-19 at intermission.
“We got frustrated and started taking long shots,” Parness said. “We can’t put Brett in spots where he has to go one on five and that was the issue in the first half. We needed to do a better job of playing off him.”
But LeQuire and Haeckel powered the T-birds in the third. Haeckel drained two 3-pointers to give North Branford the lead for good. LeQuire added a putback and when senior guard Gianni Lavorgna capped the big spurt by banking in a 3-pointer from the right wing, the T-birds had a 34-22 cushion.
LeQuire, who scored his 1000th career point earlier this season, sliced through the Portland defense in the second half and was able to get to the free throw line as the T-birds extended their lead.
“I think Brett’s one of the best players in the Shoreline Conference,” Serra said. “We just didn’t execute in the second half. We smothered their offensive flow in the first half. But LeQuire is a very good player who includes his teammates. My hat goes off to them.”
North Branford, which went 6-14 a year ago, had defeated Cromwell in its previous game.
“It kind of started at the end of last year when we won 3 out of 4 to finish the year,” Parness said. “We’re getting better every week so we’re going to try and keep building on it.”