Boys basketball: Xavier tops Foran in SCC's first round

The 12th-seeded Foran High boys basketball team was going to have to play one of its best games of the season to have a chance of knocking off No. 5 seed Xavier High on Thursday night in a first-round Southern Connecticut Conference Tournament game in Middletown.

So, when the Falcons reeled off the game’s first nine points, the task essentially became insurmountable. Xavier led wire-to-wire, and never by fewer than 13 points after the first quarter en route to a 56-30 victory over the Lions.

“Coming here, in a hostile environment, you have to really play your best game,” said Foran coach Ian Kirkpatrick. “Tonight, I thought we were off a little bit. Credit goes to Xavier. They made it incredibly difficult for us tonight.”

Xavier (13-9) moves on to face No. 4 seed Hillhouse, a first-round winner over Jonathan Law, in a quarterfinal game on Saturday.

Foran (10-11) has about a week-and-a-half to prepare for its first-round Division IV state tournament game.

The contest marked the first playoff game the Lions have qualified for in five years. But having to make the 50-minute trip northeast to the not-so-friendly confines of Xavier’s gymnasium was no prize.

“This is a great experience coming up here. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to,” said Kirkpatrick. “But from here, we’re moving forward. We’re going to go back, get to work on the things we have to improve on moving forward into states.”

The average-sized but loud crowd, along with Xavier’s tenacity on defense, created problems for the Lions from the opening tap.

Foran missed its first five shots and turned the ball over three times as Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead.

Todd Gentley got Foran on the scoreboard with a solid post move off a feed from Matt Cruz. Cruz would later score on a short pull up in the lane, but those were the only two shots Foran made in the first quarter.

Xavier, meanwhile, expanded its lead to double-digits, and took a 16-4 lead into the quarter.

The Lions played with the Falcons in the opening minutes of the second period.

John Shannon nailed a 3-pointer and a Tyler Heenan steal and assist led to a Cruz driving layup to make it 22-9.

The Falcons rallied off eight straight points to push the lead up to 21 points.

A Gentley basket closed out the first half, but did little to improve the 19-point halftime margin, 30-11.

A 19-10 third quarter for Xavier, plus a Falcon hoop to open the fourth quarter, extended the lead to a high of 30 points.

Four Lions scored in the final quarter: Cruz, Gentley, Heenan and Michael Simonelli.

Gentley led the Lions with 11 points, while Cruz added 10.

Heenan had four points, five rebounds and three assists.

Shannon pulled down a team-high six rebounds.

If there was a silver lining in the outcome, it was that Kirkpatrick got to play all 11 of his players.

Richard Prosser, Jason Giambra, Simonelli, Tyler Griffin, Ethan McVoy, Victor Rios and Anthony Davis all played but didn’t score for Foran.Despite the tough loss, Kirkpatrick was pleased with the experience his players got Thursday night.

“It’s great for our kids,” he said. “Win or lose, I’m proud of our seniors. One game does not define our season. And I think the guys know that. That’s going to be the message when I get in the locker room.”