After a tough three-game stretch that included losses to Register/GameTimeCT Top 10 teams Hillhouse and Wilbur Cross, the Hand boys’ basketball team looked like it righted the ship.
The Tigers won their final six games of the regular season, most of those without center Andre Frederick, who sprained his right knee. Hand earned the No. 6 seed in the SCC tournament.
Then No. 11 Branford came in and beat Hand 50-46 in Madison in the opening round Thursday.
That left at least a 10-day layoff for the Tigers, a senior-laden group, to ponder what happened and get ready for the Class L state tournament.
“I think we overlooked Branford,” Hand coach Frank Rossi said. “We talked about after the game that it is now a one-game season and New Fairfield is our sole focus.”
The CIAC tournament pairings will not be finalized until Wednesday, but it looks like Hand will be the No. 12 seed and host No. 21 New Fairfield out of the South-West Conference.
Rossi said Frederick, a 6-foot-7 center who is averaging 11.9 ppg., should be ready to go against New Fairfield. He has already signed to play at Division I Robert Morris next season.
“A lot of what we did was built around his presence,” Rossi said. “He takes a lot of pressure off of our other big guys because he draws so much attention on the floor.”
Hand finds itself in a similar position to a number of teams either having been eliminated from or never qualified for league tournament play. Hand has one scrimmage scheduled this week against another SCC team, Cheshire, which also lost in the opening round to Notre Dame-West Haven.
“We will stay as close to our routine as we can,” Rossi said. “We have to get past (the Branford loss) and I think we’ve done that.”