MIDDLETOWN >> Guilford defeated Xavier 48-47 in what was an enormous road win for the Indians. But for Xavier, it was a shattering loss.
“I put a lot of stock in getting a signature road win,” Guilford coach Jeff DeMaio said. “I think Xavier is a very good team and this was a huge win for us. The league is so good, so deep that every game is tough.”
Xavier (7-9) had 12 turnovers in the first half. The Falcons shot just 34 percent (18-for-53). That usually equals a loss and it did this night. But Xavier had a chance at the end.
With 29 seconds left, Mitch Nappi drained a three to cut the Guilford (12-4) lead to one at 48-47. The Falcons then fouled Noah Rubino (19 points) with 16 seconds left, but Rubino missed both shots giving the Falcons a chance to win.
In the wild final 15 seconds Xavier had two shots, one by Kyle Jackson and the other by Matt Bielinda, but neither fell.
“We wanted to attack the rim in the last 15 seconds,” Xavier coach Mike Kohs said. “We wanted to get the ball in Jackson’s [Benigni] hands and have him penetrate and maybe get fouled as we were in the bonus. But we’re a team that looks for threes and we never penetrated like we wanted to.”
Guilford led by as many as 11 points with 5:30 to go in the third quarter, but Xavier went on a 14-2 run and took a 34-33 lead on a 3 by Kyle MacGillis with less than a minute remaining in the third.
Guilford regained the lead at the end of three, 35-34 and never trailed after that. Xavier did tie the game 44-44 on Benigni’s full-court, driving layup with 2:15 left in the game, but that was it.
Sam Dombroski, who was in foul trouble all night and managed just five points, scored with 1:20 left to give his team a 46-44 lead. Dombroski added two free throws with 49 seconds left and that turned out to be enough.
“It was like our game at Cheshire,” said Kohs, referring to a game the Falcons lost two weeks ago. “We came out with no energy and played a miserable first half, just like we did at Cheshire. The kids played hard in the second half, but we dug ourselves such a hole.
“We live and die by the 3-point shot and when they don’t fall, we’re in trouble. On top of that we had so many turnovers, so many unforced errors in the first half.”
While it was Dombroski’s free throws that won it, Guilford was only 10-for-19 from the line and those late misses gave Xavier a chance and DeMaio heartburn.
“In those last 15 seconds I was wishing for the clock to run and for their shots not to go in,” said DeMaio. “I was praying.”
DeMaio said that going in, his team’s goal was to keep Nappi [8 points] and Benigni [14 points] in check.
“I think we did a pretty good job,” DeMaio said. “To hold them to 47 points is a pretty good job.”
Guilford led 12-7 after one, breaking from a 7-7 tie with 2:30 left. The Indians opened it up to 25-17 at the half.
Xavier plays at Fairfield Prep Friday.