MIDDLETOWN >> There are bright new lights and a slick new floor decorating the Vinal Tech gymnasium this season. You could even say there’s a new era of Hawks basketball after Vinal’s wild 46-45 victory over unbeaten Cheney Tech on Friday night.
Senior guard Jordan Sanders made two clutch free throws with 15.6 seconds remaining and the Hawks survived a pair of tip-ins from the Beavers in the final seconds to win this Constitution State Conference thriller.
“A couple of the kids in the locker room from last year said they don’t know if we’d win that game at the end a year ago,” Vinal Tech first-year coach Gary Marineau said. “I told them, ‘Listen, this is this year.’ So to be 4-2 and to beat an undefeated team that’s a really solid team is great for my kids and great for the program.”
Deivon Albrincoles had 13 points, while Curtis Anderson and Denzel Woolard had 11 points apiece for Vinal Tech (4-2).
Steve Martinez had a game-high 15 points, David Nelson added 10 points, and Javari Wihterspoon chipped in nine points for Cheney Tech (5-1).
Nelson’s three-point bomb gave the Beavers a 44-42 lead with just 2:18 left in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks answered when Anderson found Woolard in the low post for a layup to tie it at 44 with 1:30 remaining.
The Beavers had a chance to regain the lead with 22 seconds left but Ramon Gracia missed a pair of free throws. Anderson grabbed the rebound and Sanders was fouled in the backcourt.
Sanders rattled in both 1-and-1 free throws to make it 46-44.
Cheney senior Isiah Quiles was fouled on the ensuing possession and he made the first free throw to cut it to 46-45 with 7.3 seconds left.
Quiles missed his second free throw but Martinez grabbed the offensive rebound. Martinez couldn’t convert and a pair of tip-in tries from senior Matt Hollbrook also fell short at the buzzer.
“I thought at the end there were three or four fouls that were committed and there were no calls,” Cheney Tech coach Fred Huhn said. “It was a tough loss for us and a great win for Vinal. Hopefully, when they come up to our place we’ll be able to repay them the favor.”
The Hawks held the Beavers to their lowest point total of the season while snapping Cheney’s five-game winning streak.
“We’ve been preaching team defense and to hold a team like Cheney Tech to 45 points is great team defense,” Marineau added.
Albrincoles drained a pair of 3-pointers, and Shabbir Ahmed sank a trey from the right wing as the Hawks built a 16-11 lead after one quarter.
Vinal maintained its slim advantage at halftime (29-26) and at the end of three quarters (40-35).
“The ending wasn’t where we lost the game,” Huhn said. “The beginning was where we lost the game. We missed a bunch of layups in the first and second quarters. It wasn’t really down here at the end because it could have gone either way.”
After coaching three seasons at Hale Ray, Marineau has found a basketball home with the Hawks.
“This opportunity opened up late and I’m really thankful to (Vinal Tech AD) Dave Curtis for thinking of me,” Marineau said. “I’m telling you, we are building things. We’ve got a long way to go but to be 4-2…this is going to be a great weekend.”