MILFORD — Foran’s girls basketball team achieved two of its preseason goals in one fell swoop on Wednesday when it traveled downtown to square off with Lauralton Hall in a Southern Connecticut Conference matchup.
The unbeaten Lions overcame a sluggish start to pin a 50-38 defeat on the host Crusaders, and with the victory, qualified for both the league and state tournaments by notching their eight victory of the season.
It was not easy, as the cagey Crusaders, who dropped to 1-8 following their fourth consecutive loss, slashed a double-digit deficit to two points late in the third quarter.
“I knew it was going to be a physical game,” Foran coach Bob Asmussen said. “They played physical and we were able to gut it out. We had some trouble running our stuff… It was a gritty game.
“They did a good job against us defensively and took us out of rhythm. I think our girls were a little hyped up in the beginning, knowing what we had at stake. I think once we settled down we got our feet underneath us.”
Sophomore guard Lauren Heenan paced the Lions (8-0) with a game-high 16 points, while Mia Tunucci added 12 points and Jasmine Lord chipped in with 10.
Foran extended its lead to 12 just 25 seconds into the second half, following a foul shot from Lord.
Lauralton Hall responded with a 13-3 run, bolstered by a trio of 3-pointers, over the next five minutes.
A 3-pointer by freshman Lila Pinho and a basket in the lane from senior captain Lauren Adams cut Foran’s lead to 26-24 — leading to a Lion timeout.
Coming out of the break, Courtney Musante converted a key basket for the Lions that seemed to swing the momentum. The freshman snared an errant Tunucci shot and muscled in the putback to halt the Lauralton run with 29 seconds left in the third frame.
“We haven’t finished games,” Crusader head coach Mike Marratea said. “It’s a work in progress. We had a lot of young girls out there tonight. We have to stay the course and somehow, some way, we have to finish games.”
From there, the Lions maintained a lead of four or more points to lock down their third straight trip to the state playoffs.
“Two of our stepping stone goals for us were eight wins for us,” Asmussen said. “We hit two of them tonight. We just have to push forward and work to get better each game.”
The Lions attempted to pull away in the second quarter, outscoring the Crusaders 14-4 after a back-and-forth opening stanza.
Stout defense was the catalyst for Foran, as it held Lauralton without a field goal for 7:08. The dry spell spanned from Lauren Dowling’s short jumper at the 2:53 mark of the first quarter until Pinho’s layup with 3:05 left in the half.
Tunucci then answered on the other end with consecutive baskets, before countering a Shannon Redgate drive with a pair of free throws to stake the Lions to a 22-11 halftime edge.
“She was battling in the post the whole game,” Asmussen said of Tunucci. “We went to the post game a little more than normal today because I thought we had an advantage there. She matched their physicality.”
FORAN 50, LAURALTON HALL 38
Sendzik 2-0-0-5 Dowling 1-0-0-2 Adams 2-0-0-5 Pinho 3-3-4-10 Chirgos 3-0-0-6 Redgate 4-0-0-10. Totals: 15-3-4-38
Heenan 5-4-8-16 Inthapanhya 0-1-4-1 Tunucci 3-6-7-12 Lord 3-3-5-10 Musante 4-0-0-8 Lucas 1-0-0-2 Collins 0-0-0-0 Totals: 16-14-24-50
3-point goals LH: Sendzik, Adams, Pinho, Redgate 2; Foran Lord, Heenan 3