Boys basketball: Lions punch ticket with win over Titans

The wait is finally over for the Foran High boys basketball team.

With its 66-50 Southern Connecticut Conference non-divisional home win over Sheehan of Wallingford last Thursday night, the Lions ended a five-year drought and earned a berth in the state tournament.

Foran withstood constant full-court pressure by the Titans during a fourth-quarter attempted comeback, while converting 9-of-12 free-throw attempts down the stretch to earn its eighth win against six losses.

"Getting those eight wins by now; it's a great feeling,"said second-year Foran coach Ian Kirkpatrick. "It's exciting for the program; the coaching staff and, most importantly, for our kids. They're very deserving. They come to practice every day and work hard."

The last time that the Lions made the postseason took place during the 2012-13 season under Tim Swaller, who's now the head basketball coach at Stratford High.

Foran never trailed in the game and led 44-32, entering the final eight minutes. But the nagging full-court pressure applied by veteran coach Joe Gaetano, was beginning to frustrate the locals.

Three times in the fourth quarter, the Titans managed to cut the margin to nine points, the last time at 50-41, on a basket by Derek Vansteenburgh on a put back with 4:31 left.

After that, Sheehan was forced to foul. Foran converted six times from the line to push the final margin out to 15.

"We work on breaking pressure defenses all the time in practice, " said Foran sophomore John Shannon, who led a quartet of double-point scorers with 19. Matt Cruz added 14 points while Victor Rios and Todd Gentley contributed 12 apiece. All three of them are seniors.

"It's nice being able to play with our seniors," Shannon  said. "When they kept pressing us, what we tried to do was not get too hyper. We didn't want to start and try to force everything. Instead we slowed it down and passed our way through it."

Foran shot the ball well all night against the Titans. The Lions converted 24-of-46 from the field (52 percent) and made 12 out of 19 from the line (63 percent). On the other end, Sheehan was 18-of-52 (34 percent) and 11-of-16 (68 percent).

Shennan had 10 rebounds to lead the way, as the Lions dominated on the boards, by a 40-28 margin. Foran had one more turnover, with 13 as Sheehan had 12.

In addition, the Lions had good ball movement, earing 10 assists. Again Shannon led the way with three.

"We fought our way through this one at both ends of the floor," Kirkpatrick said. "The last time that we played them (in a double-overtime loss), we didn't handle the late-game pressure well. This time, we had good ball fakes, moved their defense up and our guys kept breaking for the right spots. Once you're able to get the ball past the first two defender, it gives you a much better chance to get into a half-court set."

Roundup: Foran was coming off a 47-42 victory over Platt Tech. Matt Cruz scored 17, Todd Gentley 12 and Victor Rios 10. Tahquell Cadle had 13 points for the Panthers (8-3).