But when it came down to it, the Guilford girls’ basketball team was able to squeak out its home opener with a 39-38 victory over neighboring Branford. The Indians evened their record at 1-1 after suffering a 49-38 loss to Sheehan in the season opener two days earlier.
“We were too sloppy,” Guilford coach Bob Welsh said. “We have to work on foul shooting, boxing out and rebounding. And we also have to take better care of the ball.”
Branford missed 18 of 31 free throws, while Guilford wasn’t much better from the line, making only 14-of-26 attempts. Those missed free throws were the key as they kept each team from grabbing a big lead.
“I think it was sloppy both ways,” first-year Branford coach Justin Henry said. “We turned it over and they turned it over, and there were lots of missed free throws.”
Branford (1-1) trailed 33-21 going to the fourth quarter, but freshman Adrienne DiGioia (24 points) singlehandedly kept the Hornets in the game down the stretch. She scored seven straight points to close it to 33-28.
But Amy Puchini collected a bucket and Presley Altieri hit a 3-pointer to restore Guilford’s lead to nine, 38-29, with 3:07 to play.
However, DiGioia, who scored 16 of Branford’s 17 points in the final 8 minutes, wasn’t finished. She scored five straight points to close it to 39-34 with 49 seconds to go.
Guilford missed four free throws down the stretch, while Hannah Zampano collected the only non-DiGioia point of the fourth quarter for the Hornets.
“It was a good effort for her (DiGioia) as a freshman,” Henry said. “She takes on a lot of responsibility as a point guard. We’re asking her to do a lot.”
Things got interesting with 4.4 seconds left remaining with Guilford up 39-35. DiGioia dribbled down court and connected on a 3-pointer, but the Indians played it smart and didn’t foul.
“Down four, you’re looking for a miracle at that point,” Henry said.
Welsh had told his team to let Branford shoot and not to foul.
“I said, whatever you do, don’t foul anyone,” Welsh said. “We knew they were going to shoot a 3.”
Guilford had led almost the entire way, taking a 4-3 lead halfway through the first quarter on a Nikki Basilicato layup. The Indians pushed the lead to 10-4 after the first quarter and 20-11 at halftime.
“I liked some things we did,” Welsh said. “We went young in a hurry as both captains (Altieri and Tori Loukakes) had two fouls in the first 2 minutes of the game.”
Freshman Andrea Basilicato led the Indians with 10 points.