WALLINGFORD — The Cheshire Rams secured their first boys basketball win of the season Monday 58-54 over Sheehan after trailing by as many as 16 points.
Cheshire’s Jack Markarian, the team’s only returning starter from last year, scored 13 points in the second half to help erase a 10-point deficit and lead the Rams (1-3) to the SCC crossover victory.
“It was exciting to watch, and Jack definitely provided that balance for us, that person on the court that was able to calm us down when we were in uncharted waters,” Cheshire coach Dan Lee said.
After losing by double digits to Xavier on Thursday without the help of starting forward Kyron Coviello, the Sheehan Titans (2-3) were eager to welcome the 6-foot-3 senior back. His return was all Sheehan head coach Jon Gaetano could have asked for in the first half, as Coviello scored seven points and his defense contributed to Cheshire shooting 4-of-10 from inside three-point range.
“We need him in the lineup; he does so many things for us,” Gaetano said. “It’s a major plus, what else can I say? We need him in the lineup. He gives us a presence inside that we sorely need.”
Cheshire had fluid ball movement and played physically, forcing its way to the free-throw line eight times in the first half and sinking six of those shots. But besides the free-throw and the three-point ball, the Rams couldn’t get much in the way of scoring to begin the game.
Cheshire guards such as Tristan Washington (11 points) and E.J. Quint (5) were efficient with their deep looks and helped keep the score within shouting distance at halftime, but Coviello’s 6-foot-3-inch presence in the paint stifled the Rams underneath.
After halftime, Cheshire came out a different team. The Rams played much more physically on defense, forcing turnovers and creating possessions to close the gap.
It worked, as the Rams slowly worked their way back from the deficit, mostly on the back of Markarian, and took their first lead of the game with five minutes left to play.
Markarian and Quint continued to put points on the board, giving Cheshire a 54-52 lead with less than a minute to play.
When the Titans began reaching for the ball and committed fouls instead of taking the ball away, the Rams made free throw after free throw. They weren’t afraid to tap their wrists and show that they had ice in their veins as the clock expired on their big comeback.
Lee said that his team did well with all the little things, especially making plays on loose balls and coming down with tough rebounds. But what impressed him the most was how the Rams played in the final two minutes after a Cheshire player inadvertently called his team’s last timeout.
“The last two minutes and with no timeouts, for them to keep their composure and take direction from the sideline, they not only grew on the court, but I think they grew as a team today,” Lee said.
The Rams next play on Friday at home against Xavier, while Sheehan will travel to Amistad on Wednesday.