Foran defeats Law, earns division crown
Foran High girls basketball coach Scott Nails was in the mood to do a little dancing on Friday night.
Nails positively had a reason to celebrate, after his Lions had withstood a furious comeback attempt by city rival Jonathan Law and had come out victorious, 51-48, sweeping the two-game series against the Eagles for the first time in Nails’ five-year stint as head coach.
In the aftermath, Nails knocked out a few very good steps before he took a moment to pause.
“I’m not about to check on this right now,” Nails said. “But if Guilford defeated Hand tonight, it would give us the Hammonasset Division title (in the Southern Connecticut Conference).
“I’ll look into that later (Guilford won 45-30). Right now, we want to enjoy this victory.”
Led by 17 points and 12 rebounds from freshman center Taylor Ceballos and 14 points from junior guard Teneya McLaughlin, including six in the game’s final three minutes, Foran won its sixth game in a row and its seventh in its last eight outings.
The Lions then defeated Hillhouse, 51-46, Saturday night to officially clinch the title and now have a 7-0 won-lost record in division play with just one game remaining, against Hand of Madison. Overall, the Lions are 11-6.
Ceballos scored 18 points, Rebekah DeRosa scored 11 points and McLaughlin had nine markers against the Academics (2-14), who took a 23-21 lead into the half.
Ceballos had 20 rebounds and McLaughlin had six assists and five boards.
Law, which started three freshmen, trailed Foran 37-26 with a little over three minutes left in the third quarter, but the Eagles closed it to four, at 37-33, at period’s end.
A pair of free throws by Jessica Centore early on in the fourth quarter pulled Law even at 37-37.
The Eagles took the lead, 39-37, on a basket by Sam Murphy at 6:38, then managed to stay out front until Kelly Quinn’s two free throws at 3:23 made it an even game again, this time at 44-44.
Ceballos then converted one of two tries, as Foran went ahead again at 45-44.
But Catie Miller’s jumper in the lane after taking a pass from Centore put Law up, 46-45, with 2:24 left.
Then McLaughlin, a lightning-quick guard with good penetrating abilities, got her hands on the ball. She scored at 1:52 and again at 1:37, as Foran pushed its lead out to 49-46.
Still, Law (3-13) wasn’t done.
When Erin Saley scored with 1:28 showing, it cut Foran’s lead to one, 49-48.
McLaughlin missed two free-throw attempts with 31.8 seconds to play, but she then made two with nine seconds showing to ice the game.
“We always tell our kids that it’s not about the ones that they miss, it’s about the ones that they make,” Nails said.
Law coach Heather Borges has an intense amount of pride in her team and its effort.
“Whatever I’ve asked of this group of kids this season, they’ve done,” Borges said. “When we needed a three, they made it. When it came time to make a lay-up, they’ve done it.
“They began believing in what’s on the backs of their jerseys tonight. That’s why we got back in this game.
“You can’t control the outcome. That’s for certain. What you can do is control how you handle it. I wouldn’t want to coach any other high school team in the state.”
Both Saley and Laura Dulin had 10 points for Law, which outshot Foran from the field. Law made 16-of-35 tries (45 percent) compared to the Lions’ 17-of-55 (30 percent).
Foran was 16-of-28 from the foul line, while Law made 14-of-20 attempts.
The Lions, behind Ceballos and McLaughlin with six each, won the battle of the boards 41-35.
For Law, Murphy and Saley had five boards each.
Law turned the ball over 18 times; Foran committed 14 turnovers.
“Her (Borges’) young kids didn’t play like freshmen tonight,” Nails said. “They had great leadership on the floor. Both Sam Murphy and Catie Miller (seniors) really battled out there. They gave us almost more than we could handle.
“But you expect that in a rivalry like this. I told me kids before the game to forgot about the records and that we’re in for a tough game and we got one.”
To open the week, Centore scored 11 points to lead Law to a 30-29 victory over Branford (7-9).
Law took a 12-9 lead after one quarter and trailed the Hornets by a 17-16 margin at the half.
Law won the third period, 12-10. Danielle Nantel had seven points and made Law’s only 3-pointer.
Saley scored six points, Dulin four and Kira Topalian had a bucket.
Murphy scored 13 points to lead Law when the Eagles dropped a 43-40 decision to a 10-5 Guilford squad on Jan. 29.
Miller and Dulin scored seven points each for the Eagles, who stayed within striking distance in every quarter.
Saley had six points, Nantel five and Centore two.
In its first game of the week, Foran showed off its skill shooting free throws when the Lions went on the road and defeated East Haven, 50-48,.
Ceballos shot 8-for-11 and McLaughlin was 9-for-12 from the line against the Easties (7-9).
Quinn scored 14 points, including a 3-pointer, and Foran broke a 15-15 tie with a 9-6 edge in the second quarter to take a 24-21 lead into the half.
It was 34-30 Foran after three periods.
Ceballos finished with 14 points and McLaughlin 11.