BRANFORD — Coming off a regular-season schedule where it did not defeat a team that finished with a winning record, Jonathan Law was considered an underdog in its SCC quarterfinal against Hamden.
Despite the Lawmen’s superior seed based on their 16-4 overall mark, the gymnasium at Branford High School was stunned into silence when Law opened up a 20-point lead over Hamden on the first possession of the third quarter.
That ended up being the high-water mark for fourth-seeded Law, as the Green Dragons surged back to earn a hard-fought 65-59 overtime victory on Saturday afternoon.
Hamden, the No. 5 seed, will face top-seeded Notre Dame-West Haven (20-1) in the semifinals at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on Monday at 7:45 p.m. The Green Knights knocked off eighth-seeded Hillhouse, 56-44, in their quarterfinal matchup.
“We’re a really good team too,” Law head coach Jamie Anderson said. “As we’ve gone through the course of the season, because maybe the bracket we’re in or tier we’re in in the SCC, people overlook us.
“But our kids play extremely hard. Our kids are competitors. We got up for a reason, we got away from that a little bit. They went on a quick run, but they did a great job in the second half. They deserved to win.”
The Lawmen raced out to a 31-14 halftime lead, behind nine points each from Jon Vitale and Diontae Eady.
Law’s defensive pressure fueled a 23-4 flourish that stretched from 4:52 left in the first quarter to the 5:24 mark of the second.
The Green Dragons (15-6) turned it over seven times in the opening period alone and did not make a field goal for over eight minutes. Eady’s layup sparked Law’s deluge and Vitale capped it with a 3-pointer to push the margin to 25-8.
Eady’s old-fashioned three-point play extended the lead to 34-14 just 17 seconds into the third period.
Exploiting its vast size advantage, Hamden started getting the ball down in the post to Justice Washington and Heston Tucker.
“They’re huge compared to us,” Anderson said.
By the end of the period, Hamden reduced its deficit to 40-25.
It might not have seemed like much at the time, but after a first half where the Green Dragons managed just 14 points it signaled a turnaround.
Hamden proceeded to rip off a 17-2 run, with Jermaine Dennis’s 3-pointer tying the game at 42 with 2:32 left in regulation.
The teams went back-and-forth from there, with Law grabbing a 49-48 edge on Vitale’s basket off of Eady’s assist with 31 seconds left.
With the Green Dragons holding for the final shot, Dennis drew a foul with two seconds remaining.
He made the first, missed the second and the game went into overtime time when Eady’s heave from half court was off target
“We had to execute pretty flawlessly, which the first half we did,” Anderson said. “They forced their will on us in a little in the second half… They’re just stronger and bigger. There is only so much we can do to keep them off the glass.”
Washington, standing a burly 6-foot-6, scored five points in the extra session before fouling out.
The Green Dragons never trailed over the four-minute OT frame, leading by as many as seven.
Vitale’s 3-pointer narrowed Law’s gap to 61-59 with 17 seconds left, but Hamden made 2-of-4 from the foul line to hold on for the victory.
“I feel firmly we should’ve closed out,” Anderson said. “Not that we got tight under the collar, but they ratcheted it up a little bit and they played a little better than us down the stretch.”
Washington scored a team-high 16 points for Hamden, while Ali Aklin and Walton added 10 each and Tucker chipped in with nine.
For the Lawmen, Eady had 17 points, Vitale 14 and Antonio Brown notched nine.
Law is seeded No. 7 in the Division IV state tournament, which begins on March 4.
It’s likely first-round opponent will be No. 26 seed Platt Tech of Milford (8-12).
Law beat Platt Tech 73-34 back on Dec. 17.
HAMDEN 65, LAW 59 (at Branford)
Zane Birks 3 0-1, 7 Jimmy Coleman 0 0-0,0 Will Contaxis 2 0-0, 4 Tyler McKenna-Hansen 2 0-0, 4 Garrett Tutlis 0 0-0, 0 Antonio Brown 3 2-3, 9 Diontae Eady 4 9-11, 17 Jon Vitale 4 2-2, 14 Brian Felag 1 2-4, 4 Noah Tutlis 0 0-0, 0 Jake Faller 0 0-0, 0
Totals: 19 15-21 59
Jayvon Chapman 1 5-6, 7 Corey Waltons 2 6-6, 10 Heston Tucker 4 1-2, 9 Isaiah Earl 0 0-0, 0 Fabian Cox 1 0-0, 2 Justice Washington 6 4-5, 16 Justin Radford 1 1-2, 3 Jermaine Dennis 3 1-2, 8 Ali Aklin 3 3-4, 10
Totals: 20 21-27 65
Scoring by Quarters
LAW 15 16 9 9 OT: 9—59
HAMDEN 8 6 11 24 OT: 16—65
3-pointers: L—Birks 1, Vitale 4, Brown 1; H—Dennis 1, Aklin 1