Cheshire outlasts Hand boys basketball in double OT

CHESHIRE - For 32 minutes, Cheshire was chasing Hand, trying to keep the Tigers’ big height advantage from being the dominant force.

After tying the game on a prayer at the buzzer of regulation, the Rams held on to edge Hand, 59-56, in a wild double overtime game in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division II boys’ basketball contest Sunday afternoon.

“We had to go eight more minutes against a team that gave us trouble for 32 minutes,” Cheshire coach Dan Lee said. “I’m proud of our guys, especially after we got into early foul trouble and it became problematic. We went with a bigger lineup we hadn’t intended to, and they came through for us.”

The first overtime was tight throughout with neither team taking more than a three-point lead. A conventional three-point play by Sincere Myers with 1:55 left in the extra session gave the Rams a 52-49 edge. Then Hand freshman Kyle Hoffman (10 points) drained a three-pointer 31 seconds later to send it to a second overtime.

Hand took a quick lead, 56-52, in the second overtime after Donofrio nailed a trey from the right side and Tyler Favre (18 points) followed with a free throw with 2:33 remaining.

A layup and a three-pointer by Conner DeLaubell gave Cheshire the lead for good, 57-56, with 1:27 left in the second extra session. Yasha Laskin added two free throws with 21.4 seconds to go, forcing Hand to look for a trey to tie.

Hoffman missed from the top of the key with 7.5 seconds left, but the Tigers had another shot when Luke Nieman (16 points) was fouled and missed both foul shots. However, Hand never got a shot at the basket off as time expired.

“You gotta give Hand credit,” Lee said. “That’s a really good team with a very good inside presence. They have height and spread the court with three-point shooters. Do you double team the big guy and watch them rain threes on you? And their perimeter guys are taller than us too, so we had a height disadvantage all over the court.”

The first quarter was back and forth with the lead changing hands five times as the Tigers took a 12-11 edge at the end of the period on a three-pointer from the top of the key by Hoffman.

Hand (2-3) extended its lead to 17-13 on a Hoffman layup with 4:51 remaining in the second quarter. Cheshire (3-5) went on a 6-2 run thanks to treys by Nieman and Brandon Mai to deadlock things at 19-19 a minute later.

However, the Tigers went on an 8-4 spurt to close out the first half with Mike Travisano’s layup off a rebound giving Hand a 27-23 led at the break.

Cheshire quickly tied things at 29-29 on a layup by Myers with 2:59 to go in the third quarter. But just as they had in the first two quarters, Hand went on a run at the end of the period, scoring the final five points. Favre completed a conventional three-point play and Hudson Geremia hit a pair of free throws for the Tigers.

But Cheshire clawed back by scoring eight of the next nine points with a jumper by Nieman from the left side, enabling the Rams to take their first lead since the first quarter, 41-40, with 3:40 remaining.

A free throw by Favre deadlocked things again before he made a nice move in the paint for a layup with 2:52 to go to give Hand a 43-41 edge.

After a pair of Cheshire turnovers on its next two possessions, Hand milked the clock for over a minute before Favre hit the first of two free throws to give the Tigers a 44-41 lead with 1:03 to play.

Nieman missed a jumper with 53 seconds left and then Jason Wallack canned a layup six seconds later to give Hand a slight cushion at 46-41.

A three-pointer by Laskin with 20 seconds left closed Cheshire to 46-44 before Nick Donofrio was fouled and had a chance to ice things with 16.6 ticks remaining. However, Donofrio hit only the front end of two shots, leaving the door ajar for the Rams.

“We had so many different opportunities to put the game away with free throws and layups,” Hand coach Jimmy Economopoulos said.

Cheshire was a little unorganized in the final seconds of regulation, but Myers lofted a prayer from the right side just before the buzzer that swished through the net to send it to overtime at 47-47.

“I saw the opening and let it fly,” Myers said. “The moment that it got close to the rim and I saw it was going to drop straight, I knew it was going in.”

LONG WEEK FOR TIGERS

It was the first of six games in a six-day stretch for Hand, which had been under quarantine since falling to Hillhouse, 35-34, back on Feb. 20. That came as a result of a positive COVID-19 test in the Hillhouse community.

There was a question concerning Hand’s conditioning having not played or practiced in 15 days.

“I was happy with how we competed and at times how we executed,” Economopoulos said. “I didn’t know what to expect after no practices for two straight weeks. We had Zoom meetings and went over film and they tried to stay in shape, but the kids were excited to be back.”

And now with five more games to go this week, the Tigers have to bounce back off a loss.

“It will be kind of nice to get back on the horse after a tough loss,” Economopoulos said. “We have to have a short memory here and go play Branford (Monday). It’s a kids dream and a coaches nightmare, but we’ll make the best of it.”

Cheshire 59, Hand 56

Hand

12

15

12

8

56

Cheshire

11

12

10

14

59

Hand

Jason Wallack 2 0 0-0 4, Nick Donofrio 2 1 1-2 8, Mike Travisano 3 0 0-0 6, Scott Testori 2 0 0-0 4, Morgan Veth 0 0 1-2 1, Tyler Favre 6 0 6-10 18, Kyle Hoffman 2 2 0-2 10, Hudson Geremia 0 1 2-2 5

Cheshire

Sincere Meyers 4 2 1-4 15, Brandon Mai 1 0 0-0 2, Luke Nieman 5 2 0-2 16, Connor DeLaubell 3 1 2-2 11, Jack Markakian 2 0 4-6 8, Yasha Laskin 0 1 4-4 7