Orange Live Sports Writer
Trailing Cheshire 29-17 midway into the third quarter of Friday night’s Southern Connecticut Conference—Housatonic Division clash with Cheshire, the Amity girls basketball team could have been written off as road kill. The Lady Spartans had gone nearly eight minutes without a scoring a point in the first half. During that seemingly endless cold spell, the Rams rang up 12 points in a row to turn an 11-5 deficit into a 17-11 lead with 2 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first half. Lauren Cuomo’s three ball at the buzzer enabled Cheshire to walk off with a 22-15 halftime lead. It was the second of the 5-foot 5-inch senior guard’s three treys as she ended up with a team-high 13 points.
Following a horrendous second quarter during with the Lady Spartans hit only two of 16 shots and were outscored 11-4, things improved only slightly during a so-so third quarter. Cuomo’s third quarter rainbow from beyond the arc followed a bulls-eye jumper from Lily Dolyak to give the Rams their biggest lead of the night.
Chloe Brinton drained a three from the corner at the four minute mark. Later in the same session Janea Graham swished a runner, Kathleen Feng cashed in on a steal, and Elise Graham netted a free throw with no time left on the clock. Closing the third quarter with that 8-2 spurt, Amity pared the Cheshire lead back to only six points (31-25) as a wild, game-changing fourth quarter began.
Back-to-back threes by Feng and Janea Graham climaxed the Lady Spartans’ amazing 18-4 come back and put them on top, 35-33 with 5:03 left to play. During the next minute, Elise Graham and Brinton tossed in two more bombs from afar and Brinton added four of her seven fourth quarter foul shots. That completed Amity’s spectacular 26-7 rally that turned the now forgotten 29-17 defect into an amazing 45-36 lead with 2:50 remaining on the clock.
Any hopes Cheshire had of battling back were lost when Missy Bailey and Molly Jalbert committed costly turnovers in the final minute of play as Amity closed out its amazing 48-40 come-from behind victory.
“Cheshire hit a lot of shots in the first half and we missed a lot of shots. We took good shots, but they just weren’t falling. Our defense was not up to snuff during the first half and we got ourselves into foul trouble,” Amity Coach Michelle Martinik said. “At halftime I told my girls we had to pick up the intensity at both ends of the court. Our offense comes from our defensive intensity. We pushed more in the second half and got some very good shots to finally fall. We also worked hard to get and make those open threes.”
She added, “The key to winning is making lay-ups and foul shots. We knew that our free throw percentage wasn’t as good as it should be, so we’ve been working on improving it during practice.”
Each team canned six threes. Four of the Rams’ came in the first half while Amity canned all but one of its rainbows in the second half. Included in Brinton’s game-high 20 points were a trio of treys (two in the second half) and five clutch foul shots in the fourth quarter.
Unable to successfully shoot over or penetrate Cheshire’s two-three zone defense and hitting only six of its 23 in the first half (26%), Amity finally solved the Cheshire defensive puzzle in the second half, and ended up canning 14 of its 44 shot (32%). Cheshire nailed 12 of its 46 shots (26%) but only two of nine in the final session, when it was outscored 23-9. The Rams narrowly outrebounded Amity 36-35. While she scored only one point, Jalbert, Cheshire’s 5-10 senior center, pulled down 15 caroms. Amity’s Molly Ronan (who did not score a point) cleared a team-best seven boards.
According to Martinik, “We like to press, play man-to-man, and pick up the defensive intensity. That’s our style and what we improved on during the second half. We had to want it more and fight harder for it. Once we made the adjustment and started doing that, our shots began to fall.”
With the win, Amity improved its overall record to 9-3 (3-1 and tied with Sheehan for first place in the Housy) while Cheshire slips to 6-7 and 2-2.
The Black and Gold return to action on Monday with a 7 p.m. visit to Shelton.