GUILFORD — Guilford’s Luke Dombroski and Will Cofrances had reason to celebrate Friday night.
Dombroski hit a huge 3-pointer and a runner in the lane in the fourth quarter, while Cofrances contributed eight free throws down the stretch to lift Guilford over Hand, 55-50, before a packed Kenefick Gym for the first win of their Indian careers over their neighboring rival.
“I’ve been playing against Madison since I was in fourth grade and this is the first time I’ve ever beaten them,” Dombroski said. “We’ve played them about 60 times. It’s about time I beat them.”
Cofrances had a game-high 21 points, while Dombroski added 12 points.
“We needed this one,” Cofrances said. “This is my last Hand game ever and this is my senior year. We finally beat them.”
But it took just about every last second in the game for Guilford (11-3) to pull it off.
A 3-pointer by Brendan Hughes (16 points) gave Hand a 38-34 lead going to the fourth quarter, but the Tigers’ offense crashed to a stop at that point. Guilford went on a 17-3 run to open the final quarter and took its biggest lead of the game, 51-41, with 2:18 to play. Dombroski’s two buckets and six of Cofrances’ free throws were key in the stretch.
“I was concerned when we were down 38-34, because we really bogged down offensively,” Guilford coach Jeff DeMaio said. “We hit some big shots and were pretty good from the free-throw line after that (12-for-12 in the fourth quarter).”
Meanwhile, Hand (8-5) missed a bunch of shots and had a couple big turnovers.
“I don’t think we were in a rhythm in the entire second half,” Hand coach Frank Rossi said. “A good majority of the half, we were in panic mode. We dribbled too much and forced shots. All the things we worked on last two days for this game we left in the locker room. I’ll take all the blame on this one.”
Still, Hand was able to scramble closer with the help of a rare five-point play. Hughes hit a 3 from the top of the key and Andre Frederick was fouled by Dombroski underneath the boards during the shot. Frederick converted both chances, pulling the Tigers to within five 51-46 with 1:54 remaining.
Guilford tried to play keep away, but instead of doing that, Hand’s Griffin Wray made a huge steal and converted it into a layup to close the gap to 51-48 with 55 seconds to play. Cofrances and Hughes exchanged pairs of free throws leaving things at 53-50 with 39 seconds to go.
Hand had a couple chances, including one in the final seconds when Wray threw the ball away looking for either Hughes or Sam Jablonski for a 3-pointer to try and send the game to overtime.
“I was about to call a timeout but I saw Hughes trailing the play and we just missed him,” Rossi said. “I had one time out left in my pocket, but I thought we could get him the ball. Unfortunately, we threw the ball away.”