By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Live Sports Writer
With 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists (along with three blocked shots), Amity senior guard Zac Campbell recorded the first triple-double of his scholastic career Tuesday night as he led the Spartan cagers to a 66-58 Southern Connecticut Conference home victory over Housatonic Division rival, Sheehan. Campbell currently leads the SCC in scoring with 183 points as well as a Conference best 20.3 average points per game. The victory improved the Spartans’ overall record to 8-2, which qualifies them for the state tournament. In addition, the win gave Amity a 3-0 mark against Housy opponents and solidifies its hold on first place in the division. With this setback, the visiting Titans slipped to 5-6 and 2-2.
Winning Coach Jeff Nielsen said, “Zac isn’t just a shooter. He understands the whole game and sees the entire floor. He knows that he has to score, hit the defensive boards, passes very well, and help break any pressure we face. He has no ego and will do anything to help us win. He doesn’t think just as a shooter.”
Dave Ryan ‘s three pointer from deep in the corner with no time left on the clock gave Amity a 37-26 halftime lead, After opened the second half by tossing in a jump shot, the Spartans went scoreless for 1 minutes, 10 seconds. During that span, the Titans’ sophomore guard, Brandon Rentas tossed in six points in a row (four from the foul line) as Sheehan drew within six points (39-33). Consecutive scores by Ryan (who finished with 12 points) cooled the Titan surge. When Campbell bagged back-to-back field goals with 2:02 left in the third quarter, Amity opened up a nine point advantage (49-40.) Matt Lettick’s three point play at 1:21 made it a 10 point gap (52-42) but Sheehan ended the session with lay-ups by Justin MacDonald sandwiched around a drive from Kyle Buntin. As a result of that late run, the Titans headed into the fourth quarter, trailing by only four points (52-48).
“They started pressing us at the start of the third quarter and we lost our focus. We got loose with the ball and also began to take bad shots. Sheehan sped up the tempo of the game. We started making poor decisions, rushed our shots and turning over the ball,” Nielsen said.
After being outscored 22-15 in the third quarter, things went from bad to worse as Jon Beale opened the final session with a pretty hook shot that made it two point contest (52-50) but Amity responded with Gardner Broderick’s three point play with 7:37 to go in the game.
Campbell and the Titans’ Garry Lancaster missed . back-to-back three balls but MacDonald bagged two freebies that brought Sheehan within a point (59-58) at 2:51. That would be as close as the visitors would get. Campbell hit a pair of foul shots at 1:47 and Ryan snagged another trey from the corner to make it 64-58 with 1:18 left on the clock. Campbell ended his memorable night with two more freebies with 28 seconds to go.
Nielsen added, “Things got a little scary but fortunately, we kept the lead throughout the second half. If we ever lost that lead, it would have broken our spirit and momentum. By maintaining the lead, we stayed in control.”
With a big grin he went on to say, “It was a good thing that Dave Ryan’s three late in the game, went in. If it didn’t go in, the momentum would have gone to Sheehan. Before he took that shot, I told my guys that I only wanted them taking open lay-ups. Sometimes the shots you don’t want taken, do go in.”
Amity totally dominated the first half. Consecutive drives by Lettick gave the Spartans a 21-16 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Things would have been more one-sided had Beale and Lancaster both hit from beyond the arc.
Thanks in large part to a pair of Ryan scores and Broderick’s three-point play, Amity ended the first half with a 12-5 spurt and a 37-26 lead at the break.
According to Nielsen, “Things went fine for us in the first half. We had a size and as a result of that, a rebound advantage. It was a different story for most of the second half. Until late in the game, we didn’t rebound well at all. In addition to not rebounding well, we began to give Sheehan open looks. On top of that Zac had a tough second half. At one point, he had three straight open looks and missed all three shots. I don’t know if he got tired, but the hoop seemed to get smaller for him in the second half.”
In addition to Campbell’s triple double, Lettick tossed in 13 points. Ryan and Broderick added 12 points each for the winners. MacDonald and Rentas both rang up 18 points for the Titans. Led by Campbell’s 10 rebounds, the Spartans outboarded Sheehan 29-24. Buntin and Lancaster each hauled in five caroms.
Amity visits Shelton Friday in a 7 p.m. Housy Division contest.