HAMDEN — No. 12 Sheehan’s furious second-half comeback fell just short as the Titans lost at No. 5 Hamden, 69-63, in a SCC Tournament first-round boys basketball tilt on Thursday afternoon.
Justice Washington scored two clutch back-to-back buckets with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter to provide the difference.
The Titans, who trailed by as many as 17 early in the second half, had a chance to tie it on a 3-point attempt with 15 seconds to go. The shot rimmed out.
The Green Dragons finished the game 5-for-6 from the free throw line to seal it.
Hamden also had five players score in double digits: Javon Chapman (13 points), Fabian Cox (12), Heston Tucker (10), Washington (10) and Jermaine Dennis (10).
Hamden (15-6) advances to play No. 4 Jonathan Law in Saturday’s quarterfinals at Branford.
Sheehan (12-9) next plays in the CIAC Division IV Tournament.
“This was a tough game to lose,” Sheehan coach Joe Gaetano said. “We played them hard and made a great comeback. It was just not enough.
“Hamden is big; they are huge. But I’m proud of my kids. We were 17 down and then we were up one. This was a great game for us going into states. We can build on this.”
The defeat indeed masked a strong showing for the underdog Titans, who rallied from that 17-point deficit in the opening minute of the third quarter and led for much of the fourth.
It was an ugly start for Sheehan. The visitors turned the ball over five times in the opening three minutes and fell behind 10-2. The Green Dragons were also 5-for-8 from the field to start the game.
Sheehan did fight back to get within 20-17 by the end of the first quarter.
Hamden blitzed Sheehan for a 19-6 run in the final six minutes of the first half. The Titans were hurt when two of their top scorers, Jack McDonnell (14 points) and Kris Jackson (10), picked up their second fouls. Both eventually fouled out.
Hamden took advantage of a big height advantage in the post as Cox patrolled the boards. Meanwhile, Corey Walters and Chapman scored the home team’s final nine points of the second quarter. Chapman drilled two treys, including one at the buzzer, to give the Green Dragons a 42-27 halftime lead.
The tide would completely turn in the third quarter after Hamden made a bucket to open the scoring and push the lead to 44-27, its biggest of the game.
The Titans offense exploded out of the halftime locker room. Not surprisingly, it was McDonnell and Garrett Molampy who provided the spark.
The Titans strung together runs of 10-0 and 11-0 in the third quarter. McDonnell had three 3-pointers in the 10-0 run early in the stanza. Molampy, who poured in a game-high 25 points, had seven straight points in Sheehan’s 11-0 push late in the quarter.
“We played great team defense and we all attacked this game,” Molampy said. “We had a lot of momentum coming out of the locker room. We went on a huge run and I think our team chemistry was great tonight.”
Jackson gave the Titans their first lead of the game, 48-46, with a drive through the lane with 48 seconds to go in the third quarter. Hamden led 49-48 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter was back-and-forth. Sheehan held a 61-60 lead after a Jackson layup with 2:34 to go.
That held up until Washington did his thing. The 6-foot-5 forward converted in the paint, then he made a steal and finished it with a layup to put the Green Dragons up 64-61 with 1:15 to go.
Molampy, who also compiled six assists and five rebounds, swished two from the line as the Titans closed to 64-63 with 31.6 seconds left.
Fabian Cox matched it at the other end for Hamden as the Green Dragons went back up 66-63 with 25 seconds left.
Sheehan called a timeout. Arthur Cordes (7 points) took a 3-pointer that hit the back rim. The Green Dragons rebounded and were able to salt the game away at the line.
Hamden had a big advantage in the paint with 19 offensive rebounds.
“We played well early on,” Hamden coach Jarrad Beck said. “You have to credit (Sheehan). You know they are going to make a run. But we gutted this one out. The last few minutes of the game were more indicative of what kind of team we are.”
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