MIDDLETOWN >> Artistry it was not. But it was a win, and Xavier won’t give it back.
“We played like it was a first game,”said Xavier coach Mike Kohs after his team beat Cheshire 45-41 at the Art Kohs Gym at Xavier High Wednesday night. “About our only positive was that we were 6-for-9 from the free throw line and that we made free throws at the end to win it.”
It was one of those games in which the team that made the last mistake would lose and it was Cheshire that made the killer.
With Xavier clinging to a 42-41 lead and trying to hold on to the ball in the closing seconds, Cheshire’s best player, Colin Jordan, stole the ball and was ahead of the field for a layup that would have given his team the lead with 35 seconds left to play.
“We caught a huge break,” said Kohs. “He’s a very good guard and I thought they played harder than us, which was disappointing. I think we came out and expected to put them away and when we didn’t, we got frustrated.
“We didn’t defend very well, we turned it over like crazy, we didn’t shoot very well and we got badly outrebounded. But somehow we dug out a win.”
Xavier didn’t take advantage of the missed layup as Elijah Pemberton, who was immediately fouled, missed the front end of a 1-and-1. But after Cheshire missed a three-pointer, Pemberton found redemption when he was fouled with 8.6 seconds left and made both freebies to give the Falcons a three-point lead.
Kaleb Lutton’s free throw with 1.7 seconds left rounded out the scoring.
The Xavier stat sheet was a Stephen King novel. Cheshire outrebounded Xavier 34-22 and the Falcons shot a frightening 39 percent.
“On loose balls, we came up with maybe one to their 15,” said Kohs.
Cheshire led 15-12 after one and the game was tied 28-28 at the half. The Rams led 37-36 after three, but could manage just four points in the fourth quarter. Cheshire was even worse from the floor than the Falcons, shooting 31 percent on a 15-for-48 night.
Reid Duglenski of Cheshire led all scorers with 14 points. Pemberton had 12 and Thomas Jackson had 11.
“I thought Jackson did a pretty nice job staying with Jordan,”said Kohs. “But other than that, nobody played very well.”
Xavier will next play in the Art Kohs Invitational Holiday Tournament Dec. 27 and 28 with Glastonbury, East Hartford and Ledyard at Xavier.