Notre Dame beats Branford in Lions Club tournament

BRANFORD — For the first 8 minutes, it looked like Branford might just pull off an upset on the second night of the 29th Branford Lions Club Basketball Tournament.

But then Notre Dame-West Haven started hitting shots and things reversed in a hurry.

And for the second straight night, Branford was beaten by one of the best teams in the Southern Connecticut Conference in the Lions’ Club tourney, dropping a 56-39 decision to the Green Knights, who improved to 5-1.

Branford (2-3) was beaten by Lyman Hall, 67-36, the night before.

“It’s not the start we wanted, but we played two very good teams here,” Branford coach Jake Palluzzi said. “I hope it helps us when we play teams like Career and Wilbur Cross. When you play good teams, sometimes you take away things that can help you down the stretch.”

Branford actually led for the first 11 minutes, 18 seconds of the contest.

The Hornets took an 11-4 lead at the end of the first quarter with Nick Dummar scoring five points (nine in the game) and Kyle Nolan four points (10 in the game), while Notre Dame had trouble hitting anything from the outside.

“I think two things happened after the first quarter,” Palluzzi said. “We watched a little bit and got careless. We need to build off the first quarter, take care of the basketball and rebound.”

And what happened after the 4:42 mark of the second quarter was that Notre Dame dominated the game.

The Green Knights ramped up their defensive pressure and forced the Hornets into poor shots and forced them to take shots inside with Notre Dame players draped all over them.

“We got off to an awful start and put more emphasis on defense, which got us back into the game,” Notre Dame coach Gary Palladino said. “Our shot selection still isn’t where it needs to be.”

Notre Dame point guard Corey Bidon (17 points) tied things at 15-15 at 4:42 and then hit a jumper 36 seconds later to give the Green Knights the lead for good.

Sharpshooter Tom Doyle (10 points) started to get untracked form the outside and hit a 3-pointer and Notre Dame was well on its way.

“The game changed when we started opening things inside by making 3-pointers, which was a key for us,” Palladino said. “And our defense won it for us.”

With Branford scoring just 20 points in the second half and not hitting much from the outside, Note Dame was able to put the game away in the third quarter when the Green Knights pushed their lead to 37-25 in the third quarter.

“Anytime you play against a Palladino-coached team, they are disciplined and will never go away,” Palluzzi said. “You can’t relax against them. We have to make free throws, layups and make the most of our opportunities.”

Branford closed it to 42-34 on a 3-pointer by Buddy Shea (10 points), but Notre Dame went on a 14-5 run the rest of the way to end the game.

“I’m really pleased with the way Corey Biden played,” Palladino said. “He’s a real important factor for us and Tom Doyle has been a go-to guy for us for the first few games.”