NORTH HAVEN – There are always questions to be answered for teams when things start for real in the girls basketball season. No one really knows what to expect.
Such was the case Friday night as Branford used two big runs, including one in the fourth quarter to defeat North Haven, 59-52, in a Southern Connecticut Conference battle in the Fred Kelly Gymnasium.
“It was a game of runs and they dug back,” Branford coach Justin Henry said. “They had the lead and we had the last run. We’re happy with the win, that’s for certain.”
The Hornets led most of the night, but North Haven went ahead for the first time halfway through the third quarter, 32-30, on a Jessica McInnis steal and layup. The Indians took their largest lead of the night on a bucket by Ari DelVecchio (14 points) to push their edge to 41-35 just 21 seconds into the fourth quarter.
However, Branford went on a 7-0 run in the middle of the period to take a 47-45 lead with Autumn McHenry hitting a layup. DelVecchio canned a free throw to make it 47-46. But that was as close as North Haven got the rest of the night.
Adrienne DiGioia, who led all scorers with 19 points, had a pair of quick buckets, including a 3-pointer from the left side to give the Hornets a 52-46 edge with 1:46 to play. She also hit five free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
“Adrienne stepped up and made a big shot and her free throws,” Henry said.
“We didn’t do anything poorly to end the game,” North Haven coach Ray Degnan said. “It’s just semantics, but I don’t think we lost the game. I think they won it. I’m happy with the way we came back from being down 15.”
Branford had raced out to a 19-4 lead less than six minutes into the game and it looked as if the more experienced Hornets were going to have an easy time of things with North Haven, which started a pair of freshmen in Zoi Burns (14 points) and Laura Petrafesa (11 points).
But after trailing by 21-8 at the end of the first quarter, the host Indians went on an 8-2 run to open the second quarter to pull within five points.
“We calmed down and stopped turning the ball over,” Degnan said. “By my count, we had 10 turnovers in the first quarter and two in the second quarter. That’s the difference between getting blown out and being down by seven points.”
Branford had been able to run up and down the court, using a press in the opening half as it took a 28-21 lead at intermission. But that changed in the third quarter.
“We came out and we moved pretty well,” Henry said. “We got tired, but we picked it up again at the end. Give them credit they fought back. They dug in and slow us down.”
Branford had some trouble in the middle quarters with North Haven’s defense.
“They played a 3-2 zone and sometimes trapped the point guard and we had to pass it immediately,” DiGioia said. “A couple times we had to switch up the offense, but we figured it out.”
Besides DiGioia, Karly King added 12 points and Emma Pierson 9 for Branford.