MADISON — After a tough 10 days, Hand is back on track.
The Tigers suffered three tough losses in a row earlier this month, but closed the regular season with six consecutive wins, including a dominating 60-39 victory over Amity on Senior Night Friday at the Polson Gymnasium.
“We’re playing better and with a lot of confidence,” Hand coach Frank Rossi said. “Guys are starting to have a good understanding of where they fit in and what their roles are.”
Hand finished the regular season with a 14-6 mark and will host a first-round game in the Southern Connecticut Conference boys’ basketball tournament Thursday night. Friday night’s victory also clinched a first-round home game for the Tigers in the CIAC Class L tournament which begins in the first week of March.
“This was a huge win as 14 was the number for us,” Rossi said. “I would have taken 14 in November. Class L is a gauntlet and is going to be a nightmare. There are 15 different teams that could win L this year.”
Hand trailed for just 17 seconds Friday night when Amity’s David Ryan gave the Spartans their only lead of the night, 4-3, with 5:56 left in the first quarter. A layup by Griffin Wray (12 points) put Hand on top for good moments later.
From there, the Tigers built their lead to 18-8 at the beginning of the second quarter. Amity closed it to 20-18 on a runner in the lane by Chris Winkel (14 points), who along with Ryan (12 points) kept the Spartans in the game in the first half as they combined for 17 of Amity’s 20 points.
Hand went on an 8-2 run to close out the first half.
“In the first half, we didn’t try to create shots and tried to play too much one-on-one,” Rossi said.
The Tigers extended their lead back to double figures, 37-26, with 3:30 to go in the third quarter on a pair of Wray free throws.
A pair of free throws by Matt Ronai cut Amity’s deficit to 37-30 with 1:33 remaining in the third quarter.
Asa Palmer (16 points and 14 rebounds) canned a 3-pointer from the left side and converted a conventional 3-point play after he tipped in a bucket while falling down as the Tigers scored the final eight points of the quarter to take a 45-30 edge to the fourth quarter.
“Asa has been up and down this season, but he’s been getting more consistent,” Rossi said. “If we can get games like this out of him, we can go pretty far.”
Amity was able to cut it back to 10 points, 45-35, with 6:32 to play, but Hand went on a 15-4 spurt to close out the contest.
“We figured if we were five points back going to the fourth quarter, we’d be OK, but they kept making shots,” Amity coach Jeff Nielsen said. “They all played well like it was their Senior Night. We just couldn’t overcome their energy.”
Hand played its fourth game without center Andre Frederick, who suffered a hyperextended right knee at East Haven on Feb. 8. He was limping around with a tight knee brace Friday night, but may be cleared to play in the second round of the SCC tournament on March 1.
Amity finished 6-14, having lost five of its final six games.
“It’s disappointing we’re not in the postseason,” Nielsen said. “I feel we have enough talent and energy. It’s tough for us to end it this way.”