Updated: Law defeats Branford to gain quarterfinals
With a little over seven minutes to play in the second quarter and trailing by 18 points to Branford High in a CIAC Class L second-round home game on Saturday night, the world was beginning to cave in on the Jonathan Law girls basketball team.
Very little, if anything, had gone right.
Shots weren't dropping. The team's defensive effort, especially on the perimeter, where the No. 28 seed and underdog Hornets had connected on four 3-pointers in the game's first quarter to take a 22-8 lead, was late.
Any thoughts of advancing to a possible quarter-final round matchup with yet another Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) opponent, Daniel Hand of Madison, was falling farther and farther into the distance.
Coach Dan Young used the second of his five timeouts.
"We had a game plan," Young said afterward. "But we had to throw it out the window. It was time to scramble."
For whatever reason, his words rang strong and true to his players.
In what can best be described as one of the best comebacks in girls basketball history at the Milford school, the Lady Lawmen went on to post a 55-52 victory, never taking the lead (50-49) until there was 2:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Law will be making its first Class L quarter-final appearance since 2004 when it meets No. 4 seed Hand in Madison on Thursday night beginning at 7. The Lady Lawmen, who were ironically also the No. 12 seed, made it to the quarterfinals during the 2003-04 season before bowing out to Seymour, 43-37.
Samantha Thacker's play, which saw the junior score 11 of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, carried Law to its 16th win of the season against seven losses.
"She's our anchor," Young said. "Both on the offensive and defensive end. Samara just continues to work hard to improve her game."
Law entered the quarter trailing, 40-37.
Thanks to two baskets by junior, Fallon Andriolas (14 points, 7 in the period) and another hoop by Cali Jolley, the third junior among starters, Law pulled to within 43-41 with a little under six minutes to play.
Then Thacker came up with a steal and subsequent hoop as Law pulled even for the first time, 43-43. With 3:57 remaining, Thacker converted both ends of a two-shot free throw attempt, moving Law ahead, 47-46
"I've really tried to slow down at the free-throw line," Thacker said. "All is wanted to do was focus and make those shots."
Branford, which had upset the No. 5 seed, Naugatuck, 41-24 but had lost an earlier-season game (48-42) to the Lady Lawmen, still had other ideas.
When junior Sophia Araneo (22 points, 10 rebounds) drained her fourth triple of the game, the Hornets re-took the lead, at 49-47.
Thacker went to work again. She scored the game's next four points, making a single free throw, then polishing off a three-point play with a charity-stripe conversion. Law led 51-49 with 2:16 left. The Hornets responded as senior Emmia Pierson threw in a runner in the lane, creating another tie, with 1:18 to play.
The game's final minute would prove to be a frantic one.
Thacker scored with a minute left as Law re-attained the lead, 53-51. Araneo made one of two free throws with 38 seconds left to move her team within, 53-52. She rebounded her second missed shot, but her put back attempt came up short.
"That was when I knew we were in trouble," said Branford coach Justin Henry. "We were forced to foul."
Thacker and Andriolas made trips to the line. Thacker converted hers, and when Andriolas made one of two with 5.3 seconds showing, Law had a 55-52 lead.
Araneo inbounds the ball which eventually got to Pierson on the right side, just outside the three-point range. Her shot, which was released a little before the buzzer sounded, caught the front part of the rim, went up and then off the iron.
With his shirt-tail out and wearing a worn-out look, Young received a large group of well-wishers in the minutes following the finish. "I'm stunned right now," he said. It's almost a little to hard to believe. Our kids had to scramble for over three quarters, after we basically abandoned our game plan. It's just super. It's a great feeling. What a comeback."
Thacker echoed Young's feelings.
"We had to draw on all of our energy and use our defense to get back," she said. "I guess we did everything that we needed to do to win. It feels so great to now be going on to the quarterfinals."
For the game, Law made 22-of-55 shot from the field (40 percent) while Branford was
17-of-38 (39 percent). Law was 10-of-18 from the foul line where Branford was 11-of-14.
Thacker led Law with six rebounds (where the Lady Lawmen held a 39-27 margin) with Andriolas and Erica Boehm pulling down five each. Jolley had four of Law's 11 assists.
Roundup: Junior Fallon Andriolas threw in 29 points, leading three double-point scorers, and the Jonathan Law defense limited Melanie Polanco to five points when the Lady Lawmen defeated Maloney of Meriden, 62-28, in a CIAC Class L first-round home game.
Polanco entered the game averaging 21.1 points and had become the school's first 1,000-point scorer this year in girls basketball. Law employed a diamond-and-one defense, putting constant pressure on Polanco, and the end result was a 1-for-15 shooting night for the senior guard.
"We wanted to try and keep the ball out of her hands as much as possible," said Law coach Dan Young. "We used Samara Thacker as her chaser."
Using good ball movement on offense and combining it with a near-suffocating defense, Law rolled to a 16-5 first-quarter lead and led 34-13 by halftime. After that, the runaway was on.
"Our chemistry has really been good this year," said Andriolas , a starter since she was a freshman. "We spend time together off of the court as well. It has bonded us as a team."
Andriolas had 18 points by halftime and added 11 in the second half. Cali Jolley added 11 points and Thacker pitched in with 10.
Emma Pierson 4 2-2 12, Victoria Raffone 2 1-2 5, Issy Mannle 0 0-1 0, Sophia Araneo 5 8-10 22, Marissa Minore1 0-0 2, Karly King 5 0-0 11
Totals: 17 11-15 52
Cali Jolley 4 0-2 8, Samara Thacker 5 6-7 16, Pam Ellison 2 2-5 6, Fallon Andriolas 6 1-2 14, Colleen Goodwin 3 0-0 6, Erica Boehm 0 0-0 0, Olivia Kowalski 0 0-0 0, Maddie Lula 0 0-0 0 Eryn Mower 0 0-0 0 Sarah Paulus 0 0-0 0, Katie Konaresky 0 0-0 0
Totals: 22 10-17 55
Branford 22 5 13 12 52
Law 8 15 12 20 55
3-point goals: Branford (Pierson 2, Araneo 4, King 1); Law (Andriolas 1)