Orange Live Sports Writer
Sponsor’s name goes here. Call Terri @ 203-506-1747 for information.
Basketball games can often be won or lost from the foul line.
While Amity recorded 20 field goals in Tuesday night’s Southern Connecticut Conference inter-divisional battle with Hamden, the Green Dragons came away with a 50-49 overtime victory. It came down to a matter of quantity not quality from the charity stripe. Hamden had a miserable night, hitting only 11 of its 26 free throws (a tepid 42%) while Amity was good on six of its 10 tries.
“They made enough free throws late in the game—when they really counted. They kept Hamden in front by just enough ton win,” said Spartan Coach Jeff Nielsen. “The pressure was on and the crowd was screaming.”
Amity went into the fourth quarter with a 33-28 lead but did not score a point for the first four minutes. On the other end of the gym, Hamden ran off a string of 10 unanswered points and grabbed a 38-33 advantage. Robert Brown dropped in four points during that run and Nathan Bailey added three.
The Spartans finally broke their offensive drought with Matt Lettick’s put back but Blaine Johnson quickly matched that with his base line drive with 2 minutes, 37 left. Trailing 40-35, Amity pared that gap back to two points (41-39) as David Ryan and Lettick both cashed in on perfect feeds from Zac Campbell while Hamden added another freebie by Bailey. In the final minute, the Spartans failed to connect on jump shots by Campbell and Gardner Broderick, but finally managed to get back even at 41-41 on Lettick’s put back with one second left on the clock.
Campbell’s drive gave the Spartans a two point lead with 3:19 to go in the extra four minute session, but Hamden answered with back-to-back baskets by Bailey and Johnson.
Nielsen said, “It’s big once you get that extra field goal in overtime.”
Noting that his team had committed two costly turnovers in overtime, he added, “One of our turnovers let them score those back-to-back field goals.”
While Amity did not score for 50 seconds, Johnson swished a pair of free throws at the 48 second mark and Richard Kennedy added another with 20 seconds left as Hamden opened up as 50-46 lead. Campbell gunned home a three pointer from the wing with 8.6 seconds to go but the Spartans still trailed by a point (50-49). After Byrd missed two foul shots with 3.5 ticks left on the clock, Campbell grabbed the rebound and whipped a long pass down court to Ryan who missed a jump shot as the final buzzer sounded.
According to Nielsen, “Things got hectic when we saw their pressure. We didn’t get to the right spots on the floor on our press break. Somebody was always out of position.”
The Spartans started out ice cold, missing their first six shots, but despite hitting only two of their nine shots in the first quarter, were only trailing by a point (7-6) when Hamden’s Dylan Noble hit a jumper and added a free throw to make it 10-6 with three seconds left.
Amity fell behind 14-6 when Bryant Backus canned a base line drive and Aaron Green followed with a bulls-eye jumper. With 3:20 left in the first half, Kennedy gunned home a three to give the Green Dragons a 19-11 advantage.
After their early offensive snooze, the Spartans pulled off a Rip Van Winkle imitation, and suddenly woke up. Ignited by Broderick’s three at 3:01, Amity went on an amazing 20-1 run, turning their eight point deficit into an 11 point lead (31-20) with 3:05 left in the third quarter. As was the case all game, momentum suddenly shifted back to Hamden. The Dragons finished the third quarter with an 8-2 spurt. When Bailey cashed in on a steal with a second to go, Hamden was back within five points (33-28).
“We didn’t shoot well in the first quarter (hitting only two of nine shots) but then in the second quarter, we began to find the basket. We pressed them, forced a few turnovers, scored a few easy baskets, and gained some confidence. Then, once we had the nice lead (31-20), Hamden pressed us and we couldn’t run and execute our set plays,” Nielsen said. “It was a hectic and at times, ugly game.”
Recalling that his team led its fourth quarter lead slip away, he added, “We did lose our lead but we never quit. We stayed together and then got the big tip-in to send the game into overtime.”
The Spartans were 18 of 51 from the floor (35%) but a mediocre two of 15 (13%) from beyond the arc.
Hearing that statistic, Nielsen said, “Our threes didn’t go in tonight, but we stayed on the glass and got put backs.”
Offensively, Johnson led the winners with 12 points and Kennedy tallied 10. Campbell tallied 12 and Lettick popped in 10 for Amity. Led by Lettick’s eight caroms, Amity outboarded Hamden 31-28.
“We rebounded o.k. That’s not a major concern. We have to work on improving our offensive execution and we had trouble with their press. It really bothered us,” added the Spartan mentor.
Amity (now 1-2) hosts Cheshire on Thursday night at 7.
AMITY ITEMS: Instead of wearing their normal warm-up jackets, Amity’s varsity and junior varsity teams came out wearing white t-shirts with each player having the name of one murdered Newtown child and the date of the massacre (12-14-12) on his back. The Amity dance team wore their normal black and gold uniforms but each member had a green ribbon in her hair in honor of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The gymnasium’s upper balcony, which normally is almost empty, was full of Amity students, most of them wearing similar white t-shirts with the name of a murdered Newtown child on each one.