HAMDEN – Hamden coach Jarrad Beck implored his team to quicken the pace throughout Monday evening’s contest against New Milford. The Green Dragons more than obliged.
Using its speed and tenacious defense, No. 9 Hamden scored early and often in both halves and defeated No. 24 New Milford, 72-46, in the opening round of the CIAC Class LL state tournament at Hamden High.
With the victory, the Green Dragons improved to 18-6 and advanced to the Class LL second round where they will play No. 8 Fairfield Ludlowe Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“We tried to make it an athletic game,” Beck said. “When you hit your shots, everything looks good. We were able to hit some baskets and get the momentum. We have guys that can shoot. It is always going to be a balance thing. What I was impressed with was we passed up good shots for even better shots tonight.”
Leading by 12 points to start the second half, Hamden’s speed caused too many problems for the Green Wave as Hamden forced five turnovers in the opening 2 minutes, 30 seconds and began the third quarter on a 15-0 run to take a 52-25 lead.
The run, which was keyed by the play of senior Dylan Noble and sophomore Andrew Rice, took the steam out of a Green Wave team which had stuck around late in the opening half.
“We wanted to come out with more intensity,” said Noble after scoring 8 points in the third-quarter run and finishing with 12 points. “This was not one of our best games. We picked up the pressure and that got us going.”
New Milford, who played without its All-League guard Cameron Cunnigham who was out with a foot injury, got as close as 52-30 later in the quarter on a 3-pointer by Tyler Hansen. But buckets by senior Blair Johnson and sophomore C.J. Seaforth extended the margin to 56-30. The Green Dragons held a 26-point lead entering the fourth quarter and were never challenged again.
“I thought we played farely well in the first half,” New Milford coach Wayne Thrall said after his team closed the year with a 9-12 record. “I thought we were playing solid defense. But, it was a combination of turnovers and us coming out flat in the second half which hurt us.”
Hamden turned to its experience to get things going in the contest as the Green Dragons jumped out to a 7-2 lead just over one minute into the game and never looked back. The Green Dragons, who lost in the Southern Connecticut Conference semifinals to Fairfield Prep, never trailed in the opening round contest as Johnson and fellow senior Trevor Osborn combined to scored 16 of the team’s 21 first quarter points.
Johnson was the catalyst as he nailed a pair of 3-pointers to give Hamden leads of 5-2 and 13-7 in the opening quarter. When Osborn drained another bucket with just over three minutes remaining in the opening quarter, the Green Dragons held a 17-7 advantage.
“We wanted to come out strong,” said Johnson, who finished with a team-high 15 points. “We did not want to miss a shot. This is a new season. We want to take advantage of it.”
The Green Wave battled back and got within 19-12 thanks to three points by Jhovaughn Denton, who finished with a game-high 22 points. But a last-second bucket by Osborn gave Hamden a 21-12 lead after eight minutes.
“At this point in the season, it is survive and advance,” Beck said. “We had some good shot selection tonight. I will take this anytime.”
Denton continued to help his team chip away as a pair of free throws by the sophomore got the Green Wave within 25-20 with 4:29 remaining in the first half.
“He played a very good game tonight,” Thrall said of Denton. “I was very impressed with his ability to come through on the offensive glass.”
The momentum Denton provided quickly faded away when buckets by Hamden’s Michael Servetas, Noble and Seaforth extended the Hamden lead to 31-20. Servetas then drained a 3-pointer to give Hamden a 36-22 lead with 44 seconds remaining in the opening half.
Seaforth finished with 9 points and Rice and Osborn each had 8 in the win for the Green Dragons.
HAMDEN 72, NEW MILFORD 46
New Milford 12 13 10 11 – 46
Hamden 21 16 23 12 – 72
NEW MILFORD (46)
Jahorvaugn Denton 7 8-13 22, Max Vaughey 1 0-0 2, CJ Price 0 0-0 0, Nick Peixoto 6 3-4 15, Tyler Hansen 2 0-0 5, Reece Zimmerman 0 1-2 1, Chris Gesualdi 0 1-2 1. Totals: 16 13-21 46
Blair Johnson 6 1-2 15, Dylan Noble 6 0-0 12, CJ Seaforth 4 0-0 9, Andrew Rice 4 0-0 8, Christian Scott 3 1-2 7, Bryan Kearney 2 1-2 5, Sean Backus 0 0-0 0, Oliver Graham 0 1-2 1, Michael Servetas 2 0-0 5, Trevor Osborn 3 2-2 8, Eddie Aggyeman 1 0-0 2. Totals: 31 6-10 72
3-point goals: New Milford 1 (Hansen 1); Hamden 4 (Johnson 2, Seaforth 1, Servetas 1)