Lions' win fourth tourney title

Foran High boys basketball coach Tim Swaller can’t quite pinpoint the reason, but his team loves to play each year in the Platt Tech Christmas Tournament.

The Lions (3-2) seem to thrive against the competition, which, for the past two years, has included the host team Platt Tech, along with Bullard-Havens of Bridgeport and Sheehan of Wallingford.

Foran survived a furious come back by Sheehan on Dec. 26, for a 57-51 opening-round win before beating Bullard-Havens 53-37 on Dec. 27, for the Lions’ fourth straight title.

“We really needed the win over Sheehan (2-3) because we struggled in our first two SCC (Southern Connecticut Conference) games (both were losses),” Swaller said.

“Maybe we put a little added pressure on ourselves because we were going for that fourth consecutive championship. That’s good. Our kids seemed to definitely respond when Sheehan came at us late.”

Foran’s Bob Notholt knocked down a 3-pointer (one of six the Lions made in the game) after taking a pass from Matt Gomes, and the Lions took a 45-30 lead with 2:32 to play in the third quarter.

A win wasn’t assured quite yet, but the Lions, who shot 57 percent from the field appeared to be on their way.

The Titans and head coach Joe Gaetano didn’t think so.

Sheehan managed to close the gap to 47-36 at quarter’s end, before applying the defensive pressure in the final eight minutes.

By outscoring Foran 11-2, Sheehan closed to within two at 49-47 with 3:02 remaining.

A big basket by Nick Weissauer in the lane made it 51-47 with a little over a minute left.

From there, the Titans had to foul. Weissauer was a perfect four-for-four down the stretch and Billy Suech converted another two.

“They’re a talented team with great guards,” said Weissauer, one of five Foran players in double figures.

“They put a lot of pressure on us, especially late in the game. We were able to stay calm near the end and get it done.”

Matt Gomes led all Lions’ scorers with 14, along with eight assists (Foran had 12 on 19 field goals).

Weissauer, Notholt and Sean Deegan had 11 points apiece and Suech, coming off the bench, had 10.

Notholt had eight of Foran’s 22 rebounds and Weissauer added six.

Sheehan, led in points by Mike Tiedemann with 17, held a 29-22 margin in rebounds. From the field, however, the Titans were only able to make 20 of 50 shots.

“We’ve been stagnant on offense all season long,” Gaetano said. “We keep working and working on our offense, then, when we get into games, we keep making the same mistakes. We’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot.

“Foran played very well. They shot the ball well and they handled our pressure when they needed to.”

Swaller said, “We made really good decisions tonight late in the game where it mattered. We’re going to be a balanced team with some pretty good quickness. We showed that in both areas tonight.”

Notholt had 23 points in the championship-game win over the Tigers (3-1).

A 19-4 run in the second period propelled Foran.

Gomes scored eight points, Colton Canelli six and Deegan and Suech five each.