MILFORD – It has been a few too many years since the Foran boys basketball program has played in the postseason. That stretch is officially over.
Jumping out to a 14-point lead, Foran rolled to a 66-50 Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision victory over Sheehan at Foran High Thursday evening. With the win, Foran improved to 8-6 and qualified to play in the state tournament for the first time since 2013.
“It is a great feeling,” Foran coach Ian Kirkpatrick said. “It is something to look forward to. We are really excited. The kids are very deserving. They come to practice and work hard.”
The Lions punched their ticket to the postseason with a balanced scoring attack as four players were in double figures, led by sophomore John Shannon with 19 points. Shannon was at his best in the fourth quarter as Sheehan rallied to get within nine points, but the sophomore helped seal the deal with ten points in the final eight minutes.
“It is a really good feeling to get back to the postseason,” Shannon said. “It has been a while since we have been there.”
Behind six points from Todd Gentley and five more from Matthew Cruz, the Lions jumped out to an 18-8 lead after one quarter of play as the Titans could not get into rhythm on offense. The Lions held Sheehan to just 18 first half points and led by 14 at the break,
“We are a young team,” Sheehan coach Joe Gaetano said. “We brought back no experience from last year as we graduated eight or nine guys. But, we are growing and learning. In the first half, they just took it to us. We could not make any shots and they were making theirs. They outplayed us in the first half. Ian (Kirkpatrick) does a great job with them.”
Trailing by 16 points in the third quarter, the Titans (5-7) tried to make a run. A basket by Tyler Carmen, a 3-pointer by freshman Jack McDonnell, and a free throw by Brett Gill had Sheehan within 11 points halfway through the quarter.
The Titans got within 10 points on a 3-pointer by Carmen to end the third quarter, but Foran was not to be denied a postseason berth. Shannon opened the fourth quarter with a bucket and free throw, and Victor Rios followed with a basket to put the Lions on top 47-32.
“We got a little energy back, but it was too late,” Gaetano said. “Down 14, it is hard to come back. I am disappointed for the kids. They are a great group and they work extremely hard.”
Sheehan got within nine points at 48-39 with five minutes to go on a basket by Gill, but the Lions again answered with a bucket by Cruz, and a basket and free throw by Shannon for a 55-43 lead one minute later.
“We did not panic,” Kirkpatrick said. “We came together as a team. We fought through it on both sides of the floor.”
With Sheehan fouling to stop the clock and force the Lions to hit their free throws, Foran responded by hitting 6-of-9 free throws in the final four minutes to seal the contest.
Sheehan go as close to 12 points on a basket by Derek Vansteenburgh with 3:08 to go, but Foran went on a 6-0 run to put the game out of reach.
“All of the guys did a nice job at the end,” Kirkpatrick said. “We handled their pressure and were able to move the ball around.”
Cruz finished with 14 points in the win for the Lions, while Rios and Gentley each added 12. McDonnell led Sheehan with 11 points, while Gill added 10, and Garrett Molampy had nine in the loss.
Foran 66, Sheehan 50
SHEEHAN8 10 14 18—50
FORAN18 14 10 24—66
Kris Jackson 1 0-0 2 Derek Vansteenburgh 2 0-0 4 Austin Lee 1 0-0 2 Caden Cloutier 1 0-0 2 Mickey Deming 0 3-4 3 Brett Gill 3 4-6 10 Jack McDonnell 4 2-3 11 Tyler Carmen 3 0-0 7 Garrett Molampy 3 2-3 9 Totals: 17 11-16 50.
Tyler Heenan 0 1-3 1 Mark Wootton 2 1-2 5 Victor Rios 4 2-2 12 Anthony Davis 0 1-2 1 Matt Cruz 5 3-6 14 John Shannon 8 2-2 19 Jason Giambra 0 2-2 2 Todd Gentley 7 0-0 14. Totals 26 12-19 66.
3 point goals: S—McDonnell, Carmen, Molampy; F—Rios 2, Cruz, Shannon.