Boys basketball: Foran Lions rally past Rockville Rams

The Foran High Lions fought back from a 10-point halftime deficit, and had to wait for Rockville’s last possession fail to manufacture a basket before they could fully celebrate a 56-54 CIAC Division IV first-round state tournament victory over the host Rams.

“We had to come out and win the third period and that’s what we did,” Foran coach Ian Kirkpatrick said after his No. 22 seeded club knocked off the 11th-seeded Rams. “Being down ten at the half I challenged the guys. They showed a lot of determination, perseverance and grit.”

Foran (11-10) will visit No. 6 seed SMSA (Sports and Medical Science Academy) in Hartford Thursday night at 7.

Todd Gentley scored 18 points, Matt Cruz 16, Victor Rios nine, John Shannon eight and Tyler Heenan had five.

The final minute of the contest with the 13-8 Rams was packed with drama.

Trailing almost the entire game, Foran took a 48-47 lead on Heenan’s 3-pointer off an assist by Mark Wootten.

Shannon hit a clutch 3-pointer of his own with 2:43 remaining to knot the game at 51-all.

Coming out of a timeout, Shannon rebounded a Rockville missed trey and got the ball quickly to Cruz, who scored in traffic.

The Rams, out of the Eastern Connecticut Conference, had two chances to tie the game on their next trip before Gentley gathered in the rebound.

With both teams in the bonus, Foran looked to spread the Rams out.

Instead of milking the clock, however, Cruz saw an opening and beat his defender to the rim for a 55-51 lead at the 1:09 mark of the fourth quarter.

Rockville’s Mason Resendes made a pull-up 3-pointer with 55 seconds on the clock.

Gentley made the front end of a one-and-one from the foul line for a 56-54 Lion advantage with 38.7 remaining.

That would complete the scoring, but not the tension.

A scramble for a loose ball ended with Rockville’s Alex Deane being called for a travel while attempting to call a timeout.

The Lions missed both the front end of a one-and-one, and after a Rockville miss, both ends of a double bonus opportunity with four seconds left.

Coming out of a timeout, the Rams got the ball to Resendes but he was double teamed and had to give the ball up. His pass to Justin Collins came as the buzzer sounded.

“We expected a battle, and knew we were going to get their best,” Kirkpatrick said of the Rams. “We had scouted them and the game plan was to control the pace, which we did a better job of doing in the second half. That changed the dynamic in our favor.”

Rockville led 18-10 after one period and 29-19 at the half.

Foran scored on its first three possessions of the third period and it was game on the rest of the way. “That (mini-run) gave us confidence and that carried over into the fourth quarter,” Kirkpatrick said.

Cruz took a pass from Heenan and made a triple to open the scoring in the third period.

With Shannon and Gentley cleaning up on the defensive boards, the Lions shaved points off the deficit on a pair of Gentley freebies and a 3-pointer by Rios off a Cruz assist.

Rockville coach Michael Barile called for time two minutes in with his lead trimmed to 29-27, and the teams traded points the rest of the frame.

Gentley scored eight more points, including a three-point play off strong board work.

Shannon blocked consecutive shots, leading to Rios’ run-out basket to make it a 42-39 Ram lead after three periods.

Gentley had Collins on his hip and was in position for Heenan’s perfect entry pass to open the fourth.

Cruz scored on a drive, Gentley had a brace of free throws to tie the game at 45, and that set up the wild finish.