WALLINGFORD — There weren’t many easy points to be had in a defensive-minded boys basketball contest at Sheehan High School on Friday night between Amity and host Sheehan.
The Spartans used a 17-6 run down the stretch, highlighted by a clutch steal and layup by captain Colby O’Connor with 50 seconds to go, to score a 51-46 SCC crossover win over the Titans.
Sheehan did have a chance to tie in the closing seconds following a Amity turnover with the score at 49-46. Sheehan called a timeout with nine seconds left. Isaiah Hernenadez had a clean look at the equalizer from the corner, but it hit the back rim.
Sheehan fouled with less than a second to go and Chance Starrett hit two free throws to seal the 51-46 final for undefeated Amity, which improved to 7-0 on the season.
“We had a couple of key steals down the stretch, especially the one by Colby,” Amity coach Jeff Nielsen said. “Colby is our leader on offense and defense and is the heart and soul of this team. In a position like that you need a senior to step up and he made a big play.”
“It’s a great feeling to be 7-0,” Nielsen added. “This team never quits.”
Sheehan (2-5) has now dropped four in a row, but were with the Spartans bucket for bucket. Kyron Coviello and Jaidin Kapoor paced the Titans with 11 points apiece and Anthony MarkAnthony added eight. Coviello also had nine rebounds.
Amity led 25-20 at the half thanks to a 14-4 run that spanned 7:47 from the end of the first quarter well into the second.
The Spartans did the bulk of their damage on the boards or on interior passes through the Sheehan zone.
The Titans did well guarding the perimeter. Amity made just one 3-pointer in the first half despite hoisting up 10 attempts.
Amity’s offense was balanced behind seven scorers. Martin Zhang scored a team-high 12 points.
Amity also had a big edge on the boards throughout the game. Justin Zamkov grabbed nine rebounds and Nathan Simon grabbed eight.
Sheehan big man Coviello had eight points and four rebounds in the opening half. His up-and-under bucket with 10 seconds to go in the half made it a five-point Sheehan deficit at the break.
Sheehan made its run late in the third quarter. MarkAnthony’s 3-ball in the closing seconds gave Sheehan its first lead, 36-34, since the first quarter. It was a part of 12-0 run that spilled into the fourth quarter.
At the end of it, the Titans were up 40-34 with 6:56 to go. It would prove to be Sheehan’s biggest lead of the game.
Amity responded with 11 unanswered points that expanded into a 17-6 closing run.
The game was tied 40-40 with 3:14 to go when Zhang hit a 3-pointer to put the Spartans up 43-40. Following a steal by Micah Morgan (11 points), O'Connor hit a layup as the Spartans went up 45-40.
Coviello brought the Titans back within two points with an old-fashioned 3-point play with 2:25 to go.
After a lengthy Amity possession, Coviello had a steal to give the hosts the ball with just under a minute to go, down 45-43. That’s when O'Connor (8 points) came up with his key steal and layup to put the Spartans up four points.
Following a Sheehan miss, Jack Pretlove canned a pair from the line for Amity as the Spartans lead swelled to 49-43 with 26 seconds left.
MarkAnthony then drilled a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. Following a timeout, Amity traveled as Sheehan continued to press. Sheehan coach Joe Gaetano set up the final play. Hernandez had a clean look and it just missed.
“We were looking for a 3 there and, when you are struggling, those don’t go in," Gaetano said. “We feel a little snake-bitten right now, and when you are snake-bitten those don't go in.”
However, Gaetano said he was pleased with the way his team battled Amity all night.
“We played pretty well," Gaetano said. “I can’t be mad at my kids. We played hard defense and we scrapped. We've been in a bit of a rut lately, but we battled a very good team. They aren’t 7-0 for nothing.”
Gaetano added that he would like to see his team learn how to finish games.
“We’ve hit a little bump in the road," Gaetano said. “I'm optimistic we will put some wins together. We are in the toughest part of our schedule right now and we still have a lot of season to go.”