Girls basketball: Foran Lions defeat Cheshire Rams

What started out as a wild week for Foran High definitely finished as one.

After taking an 11-point lead at halftime, the Lions held on down the stretch by playing sound defense and making their foul shots in a 38-34 Southern Connecticut Conference Hammonasset Division home win over Cheshire on Friday night.

The first time that the teams met back on Jan. 15, the Rams escaped with a 66-64 double overtime victory. That's 130 combined points compared to just 72 in this encounter.

Foran opened the week with a 53-44 win over Branford which snapped it’s five-game losing streak after the Lions won their first eight games.

Then, on Thursday night, Foran lost to Hand of Madison, 50-39, also at home.

"This puts us at double digits (10 wins against six losses) for the season," said Foran coach Bob Asmussen. "With four games left, if we're able to win two that would give us 12 for the year and put us one ahead of our combined win total for the past two years. We've been improving."

By spreading out Cheshire's defense and attacking offensively in the fourth quarter, the Lions, despite making only a lone field goal (by Mia Tonucci off a pass from Sam Inthapanhya), went to the line ten times and converted on five of those attempts.

Foran came into the final eight minutes of play up, 32-20, and seemingly in control.

The Rams kept battling.

Opening with a three-pointer by junior Emma Watkinson, the Rams went on a 9-2 run to close within 34-32 with 2:35 remaining.

The Lions' Jasmine Lord gave her team a little breathing room, converting twice from the line, with 1:40 left on the clock.

The Rams had a chance to draw closer, but Lord’s rebound gave the ball back to Foran.

The Lions looked to hold the ball and did until 34.5 seconds were left and Cheshire put Inthapanhya on the line. She made one of two.

Mia Juodaitis dropped in a shot jumper in the lane, diminishing Foran's lead to 37-34 with 27.4 left.

Inthapanhya was fouled again. She made the back end of the two-shot foul. Down four, Cheshire's hurried shot by Kaylee Clark went out of bounds. Foran inbounded the ball and ran out the final five seconds.

"It's pretty amazing that between us we scored all of those points when we met the first time and neither one of us could break 40 tonight," said Cheshire coach Michelle Vieira, whose team now needs two wins in its remaining four games to reach eight for the season (the Rams are 6-10).

"We were able to ramp up our defensive play in the second half and that allowed us to get back in the game. We were less than sluggish offensively in the first half. After all, we scored just 11 points. I think that our work on defense helped to get our offense going."

Both Lord and Tunucci had 12 points for the winners, while Musante, making her third start, had eight.

"Mia was a presence out there tonight," Asmussen said. "She was more vocal than I've ever seen her be. It helped defensively. We kept switching from man to two zones (3-2 and 2-3) depending on game conditions. Also, Musante has earned her starting spot. She can score and her rebounding was a key tonight."

Tunucci led Foran with eight boards, while Lord and Musante each had seven of the Lions' 36 total, one better than the Rams.

Foran had 14 turnovers to 11 for Cheshire.

The Lions made 11 of 39 field-goal attempts (33 percent) and were 15 of 23 (65 percent) from the foul line.