WEST HAVEN — It’s been a season of firsts for the Guilford boys’ basketball team.
The Indians added another one Friday night with a 48-39 victory over Notre Dame-West Haven for its first win over the Green Knights in the Jeff DeMaio era.
The win also pushed Guilford’s record to 14-4, by far the best mark in DeMaio’s five years at the helm. In fact, in his first three seasons, the Indians won a combined 12 games.
“We hadn’t beaten Notre Dame before,” DeMaio said. “They beat us twice last year and once earlier this year. But tonight, I thought we played really well. We defended pretty well and made a couple big shots when we needed them.”
Guilford only trailed for 47 seconds in the entire game as it held Notre Dame to 26 points below its season average of 65 a game.
“We tried to pick up the tempo all night and we tried everything,” Notre Dame coach Jason Shea said. “It was one of those nights where we seemed sluggish and the key was how much they outworked us.”
Guilford took a quick 5-0 lead in the first 3 minutes and held that lead until Notre Dame’s Alex Puzone (13 points) hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie it at 13-13 a minute into the second quarter.
The Green Knights (12-6) temporarily took a 21-19 edge on a layup by Karim Cisse with 1:38 to play before intermission. But a bucket by J.P. Barrett (12 points) tied it at 21-21 at the break.
After Luke Dombroski (16 points) put Guilford ahead, a bucket by Puzone tied things again at 25-25 for Notre Dame with 6:59 left in the third quarter, but the Indians went on an eight-point spurt from there with four different players getting into the scoring column.
Guilford extended its lead to 37-28 with 6:08 to play, but Notre Dame went into a full-court press that gave the Indians trouble for a bit as the Green Knights pulled to within 38-35 on a Puzone 3-pointer from the left side.
“We were gambling and got back into it with trapping, but they just outplayed, outhustled and outworked us all game,” Shea said. “That’s a good basketball team. They are well-coached and we knew they were they are legit.”
Dombroski followed with a tip-in of a miss and a 3-pointer from the left side that was the dagger with 2:39 remaining that gave Guilford a 43-35 edge.
After that, it was a matter of the Indians hitting their free throws and running out the clock.
“We got a little space there,” DeMaio said. “We had a couple turnovers, but we made enough foul shots. Luke hit a big 3 and we were able to escape.”
With two regular-season games remaining (Foran and North Haven), Guilford has a chance to finish with a 16-4 mark.
“I can’t put it into words,” Dombroski said. “We’ve traditionally struggled. I’ve been anticipating this season since I was in sixth grade and it’s been one hell of a ride.”