Amity overcomes slow start to defeat Hand boys basketball team

WOODBRIDGE >> It’s been a tough week for Amity.

Illness has ravaged the roster, making for a tired group, plus senior forward Ted Weber has been out with a sprained ankle since being injured in the season opener two weeks ago. It showed for the first seven minutes Friday night, but then the Spartans went on a 16-3 run to break things wide open en route to a 63-32 victory over Hand in a Southern Connecticut Conference boys’ basketball clash at the Paul D. Meingold Gymnasium.

“I think we were tired and we were a little sluggish to start,” Amity coach Jeff Nielsen said. “But you gain your focus and talk about it real quick. We got in the flow and when you’re a little tired, it takes some time to get your legs going. When we did we were able to make some shots and it got everything else going.”

Hand, which has struggled offensively in half of its games, stayed close at 7-6 when Tyler Boris canned a layup with 1:20 to go in the first quarter. But after getting the ball inside the paint early on, the Tigers were only able to score six points in the final nine minutes of the half.

“We just concentrated a little more,” Nielsen said. “We had to stay with the shooter on the outside, but we knew the next option for them was to get the ball inside. We shadowed it a little more, gave a little more help to the post and that helped us turn defense into offense.”

Amity was able to get the ball inside with Jack Nolan (12 points) scoring the final six points of the half as the Spartans took a 23-12 edge at intermission.

“We only scored three points in that stretch, but defensively we did a great job,” Hand first-year coach Jim Economopoulos said. “We couldn’t put the ball in the hole. We missed layups and open jumpers and you can’t do that.”

Hand got as close as nine, 27-18, with 6:36 to in the third quarter when Kenny Ciotti (9 points) hit the second of his three treys on the night.

After that it was all Amity. The Spartans were constantly able to get the ball to wide open shooters, both in the paint and from the outside, upping their lead to 45-22 at the end of the third quarter.

Amity took its biggest lead of the night, 63-30, with 1:03 left on a pair of free throws by Chris Bierezowiec (12 points).

Amity, which is now 3-1, after starting out the season with all of its games at home, now will take to the road for a game against unbeaten, No. 2 Notre Dame-West Haven Monday night. The Green Knights defeated Hamden 85-66 Friday night.

“We’re off to a great start and we’re ecstatic to be 3-1 after four starts,” Nielsen said. “Obviously, it’s an understatement that Notre Dame is a good team and they’re loaded from top to bottom. It will be a huge test and we’ll see how we respond to that environment.”

Hand is winless in six games and has a brutal week with Hamden, Cheshire and No. 1 Hillhouse on the docket.

“At 0-6 you’re always disappointed, but we’re trying to build a program,” Economopoulos said. “We have only have one or two kids who played varsity last year and I’m new. We’re playing a different system and we’re experiencing growing pains.”