BRANFORD — It pretty much came down to a couple missed shots and successful free throws Monday night.
Branford clanked a couple shots off the rim in key situations and Sheehan hit 18-of-21 free throws in the second half as the Titans collected a 54-45 Southern Connecticut Conference boys’ basketball victory at the James MacVeigh Alumni Athletic Complex in a makeup of Friday’s postponement.
Both teams are now 3-3.
“I’m very happy with a win here, especially with back-to-back games,” said Sheehan coach Joe Gaetano, whose team plays at Cheshire tonight (Jan. 7). “You have to get the first one. Tomorrow night who knows because we might be tired.”
Branford coach Jake Palluzzi said, “That’s a 50-50 game, but I knew they could be physical. They have good size which hurts us. They were strong physically inside and that’s our weakness.”
The key stretch came after Branford had rallied from a 13-point third quarter deficit (34-21) to cut Sheehan’s lead to 41-37 with 4:36 remaining on a runner in the lane by Jonathan Fuller (14 points).
“We turned it over a few times and were able to make a few shots,” Gaetano said. “They outhustled us to three or four loose balls and got second chances.”
After a Sheehan turnover, the Hornets had a chance to close the gap to two points, but a running jumper from about 6 feet out by Restinel Lomotey (13 points) went off the left side of the rim.
Sheehan then converted 13-of-14 shots from the free-throw line in the final 4 minutes to grab the victory. Six of those free throws came from Tommy Laydon, who finished with 15 points.
Sheehan led for all but 1:30 of the game and took a 14-10 edge at the end of the first quarter thanks to a 3-pointer by junior forward Andrew Gilmore. The Titans extended their lead to 18-12 with a bucket by Chris Gerzabek, but Lomotey collected a pair of baskets to get Branford as close as it would be the rest of the night, 18-16, with 2:43 to go until halftime.
Sheehan followed with a 16-5 run, including nine consecutive points to take a 32-19 edge with 4:36 to go in the third quarter. At that point, Branford was able to whittle its deficit down slowly, cutting it to 37-30 at the end of the third quarter on an Alex King 3-pointer.
“You make layups and free throws, take care of the basketball and get rebounds and you’re going to win games,” Palluzzi said. “We didn’t do any of those three very well tonight. The indication was on the first possession of the second half when they got two offensive rebounds.”
Mike Tiedemann added 16 points and Brandon Rentas had 13 for Sheehan.