Hand Boys' Swimming Beats Branford for 1st Time; Girls' Hoops Keeps Cruising
Published January 28, 2015. Last updated 03:53 p.m., January 28, 2015
Boys' Swimming and Diving
Prior to a 99-86 loss to Amity on Jan. 20 in Orange, the Tigers hit a milestone on Jan. 15, when they scored the program's (for both the boys' and girls' teams) first victory over Branford by a 94-89 final at Walsh Intermediate School as Hand is now 5-3 on the season.
"The whole meet was exciting from start to finish. While Branford has a small squad, it has a strong squad and every event was a race," said Head Coach Christina Forristall. "Many of the Branford and Hand boys train together offseason, making our high school meet an amazing friendly rivalry. [Hornets' Head Coach] Ray Beaulac and I also coach together at the Madison Racquet and Swim Club's summer league and winter recreation swim program, just adding to the friendly rivalry."
In that thrilling matchup, the team posted season-best times from Hand's 200 medley relay of Connor Miller, Paul O'Connor, Michael Healey, and Nick LaSala (1:49.52); O'Connor in the 200 free (1:58.28); Davide Mendonca (2:18.73) and Aidan Hughes (2:34.83) in the 200 IM; Jim Bambrick in the 50 free (27.07); Jeff Puciato in the 500 free (6:02.04); Healey (1:01.72) and Miller (1:05.02) in the 100 backstroke; LaSala for the 100 breaststroke (1:07.84); plus the 400 free relay of Gregory Rodriguez, Healey, LaSala, and O'Connor (3:44.50). The Tigers' diving section of Teddy Zeng, Declan Maloney and Joey Wolek placed first, third, and fourth, respectively.
Hand entered the gym of SCC Hammonasset Division rival Guilford on Jan. 20 and emerged from it with a 52-30 decision before knocking off Branford at home three nights later, 51-38, to improve to 11-1 (4-0 in divisional action).
At Guilford, Gabby Martin had 12 points, six assists, and five steals. Gege Catalano added 11 points, six rebounds, and two blocks. Cassidy Wygonik made her way into two stat columns on seven points and five rebounds. Cori Ouellette and Paula Materin combined for 12 points and a pair of three-pointers. Olivia Jackson chipped in four points to pace the Tiger attack. Hand was 12-of-15 from the foul line and held Guilford to just 11 completed field goals in the game. After taking just a two-point lead in the first quarter, Hand switched from man to zone defense and outscored the Indians 14-6 in the quarter behind a combined 10 points from Materin and Catalano. Hand's 24-14 lead at the half stretched to 36-22 after three. The visitors kept up the pace in the fourth with Martin scoring six of her game-high 12 points in that final frame as Hand nailed down the 22-point win.
Against Branford, Martin racked up 14 points, 11 rebounds, and eight steals. Catalano had 14 points and four rebounds, plus Ouellette and Materin combined for 16 points, which included four three-pointers. Branford took an early 11-7 lead after one. The host Tigers, though, responded and went into the locker room up 21-18. Hand and Branford played it even in the third, seeing the game into the final frame with Hand clinging to a 29-26 lead. Things came together for the Tigers in the fourth as Ouellette scored seven of her 10, Martin went 4-of-4 from the line, and Catalano posted six points to put the Tigers over the top.
The Tigers improved their mark to 5-0 on Jan. 20 at home with a 130.9-106.2 win over Hamden before notching victory No. 6 by a 131.1-86.85 margin also at home two days later against Foran.
Facing Hamden, Erin Naclerio (8.9) took the vault while Abby McGuirk captured first place on bars (9.1). Additionally, Naclerio (9.0 on beam, 34.0 in all-around) and Erin Maxwell (8.5 on the floor) also took events. In the Foran triumph, Maxwell (on vault at 8.6); McGuirk (9.2 on bars, 8.6 for the beam, and 9.05 on floor); plus Olivia Finke (32.5 in the all-around) grabbed first-place performances.
Hand (14-7) scored a road SCC Division A victory at Foran by a 36-27 final. Liam Sullivan (by 4-1 decision), William Hendrick (pin at 1:55), Ashton Gyenizs (pin at 2:34), Zakery Santoemma (7-1 final), Luke Bernardo (15-9 decision), Ben Onofrio (pin at 3:17), Ryan Niles (6-5 final), and Connor Sakmar (pin at 0:47) were winners on the evening.
The Tigers posted a road win, 66-45, at Guilford on Jan. 20 before a 77-68 loss at Fairfield Prep three days later to sit with a mark of 6-5 (3-1 in SCC Hammonasset Division).
Against Guilford, both teams struggled to score early on. With the game tied at 17 midway through the second, the Tigers found their rhythm and closed out the half with an 18-4 run to take a 35-21 lead into the break. Defensive stops, second-chance opportunities, and fast-break baskets ignited a 20-point third, ultimately stretching the Hand lead to 26 (55-29). The Tigers led by as many as 31 in the final frame, cruising to their sixth win of the season and third in a row. Pat Kerins collected 16 points and five rebounds; Jack Driscoll added 16 points and 13 boards; Jeff Allen came through with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists; plus Nasir Williams chipped in with 4 points, 10 assists.
Facing Fairfield Prep, the game started out at a scorching tempo with neither team missing a shot for the first four minutes. The Jesuits were eventually able to string a few stops together in taking a seven-point lead (27-20) into the second. Despite falling behind by as many as 12 points in the second, the young Tigers were able to respond behind Allen's 18 first-half points, cutting Prep's lead to 45-39 at the half. Hand hoped to carry that momentum into the third, however, Prep opened the half with a 9-2 run which proved to be the difference in this game. Down 68-53 to start the fourth and by as many as 21 points at one juncture, the Tigers fought hard till the end, getting as close as seven in the final two minutes.
Allen led Hand with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists; Kerins added 13 points; and Nasir Williams collected nine points and five assists.
Hand participated in its second race of the season on Jan. 15 against 11 schools in Amity, Cheshire Academy, Danbury, Greenwich, Guilford, Hopkins, Litchfield Wamago, New Fairfield, Southington, St. Luke's, and Westhill.
The girls' squad placed as runner-up in the competition with Carly Fischer placing first out of 55 participants with a combined time of 53.23 (28.07 and 26.15). The boys placed sixth overall as a group with Jared Newton placing 12th out of 101 participants with a combined time of 48.18 (25.29 and 22.89).