WEST HAVEN – With her team losing two straight games, senior Emma Pierson was not going to let the streak become three games. Scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter, including six from the free throw line, Pierson led the Hornets to a 47-42 Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision contest at West Haven High Monday evening.
“There is a big saying games come down to free throws,” Pierson said. “It is just muscle memory. The free throws helped us tonight. We came up with some clutch shots.”
The win allowed the Hornets to snap a two-game skid and improve to 5-4 on the year. Branford had five wins all of last year.
“They are all big,” Branford coach Justin Henry said of the win. “We are trying to build on that all the time. We only won five games last year. We have five now. I am proud of all the work the girls have put in. This is a tough league. They (West Haven) are a scrappy team and are pretty disciplined. They are tough kids.”
Leading by three points, Pierson increased the margin to ten as she started the quarter with a pair of free throws, followed with a 3-pointer, then hit a field goal with 5 minutes, 15 seconds left in the third quarter.
“They had a triangle and two on me and Sophia (Araneo),” Pierson said. “It was tough as we have not faced that before. We had the coaches supporting us. That was a big help for us.”
After Brianna Sebastian drained a 3-pointer to get the Westies within seven, Sophia Araneo hit a pair of free throws to increase the lead to nine with four minutes to go. The Westies (2-5) never quit and got as close as five points with 3:28 to go on buckets by Amanda Carr and Natalia Frazer, but Pierson connected on four free throws down the stretch to ice the game for the Hornets.
“We played with great energy tonight and rose to the challenge,” West Haven coach Jessica Moriarty said. “They bought into the defensive (triangle and two) strategy we wanted to play. They played with great effort and energy the whole game.”
The two teams battled from the start with the Westies using six points in the first quarter by Ny’Aire Serrano to take a 12-10 advantage. With West Haven leading by two points, consecutive 3-pointers by Karly King and Araneo had the Hornets on top 20-16 with 2:58 left in the opening half.
Carly Shea then came up clutch for the Hornets. After the Westies got within 22-21 on a pair of free throws by Keegan Riccio, Shea’s basket with 24 seconds left in the half gave the Hornets a 24-21 advantage.
“We had kids make shots when we needed them,” Henry said. “We had a big one at the end of the first half (Shea). Those six or seven baskets from others are certainly helpful.”
Pierson led the Hornets with 14 points, while Araneo added 12, and King 10. Marisa Minore finished with eight rebounds in the win.
Carr led the Westies with13 points, Serrano added 10, and Frazer finished with eight in the loss for West Haven. The Westies got to the free throw line just four times in the game, hitting on two.
Branford 47, West Haven 42
BRANFORD 10 14 9 14 – 47
WEST HAVEN 12 9 9 12 – 42
Emma Pierson 2 9-14 14; Victoria Raffone 2 1-3 5; Sophia Araneo 4 2-2 12; Mia Tomaselli 1 0-0 2; Marissa Minore 2 0-0 4; Karly King 4 0-0 10 Team 15 12-20 47
West Haven (2-5)
Amanda Carr 6 0-0 13; Natalia Frazer 4 0-0 8; Brianna Sebastian 2 0-0 6; Keegan Riccio 0 2-2 2; Ny’Aire Serrano 5 0-0 10; Dynastee Francis 1 0-0 3; Savannah Gray 0-2 0 Team 18 2-4 42
3-Pointers: B – Pierson -1, Araneo – 2, King – 2; W –Carr – 1, Sebastian – 2, Francis – 1