By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Knights managed to hold on to a two-point lead with less than a minute to go in the contest after the Indians failed to convert three free throws, but the Indians had a shot to knot the score after grabbing a rebound off their own missed two-point jumper with 23.7 seconds.
Following a timeout, a Farmington player drove the lane to the basket and was blocked on a double-team effort by Jeremy Mercier and Tim O’Shea, sending Andrew Lohneiss to the foul line where he sank a pair of free throws with 7.9 seconds to seal the win.
“Their big is so big that we needed to collapse down on the ball,” said Southington coach John Cessario. “It might have been a collective block, and what that means is three or four guys are in there either tipping it on the way up or are blocking it when it’s up.”
The last-second defensive stand by Mercier and O’Shea lifted the Knights to their first win of the season on Thursday with a 49-45 victory over Farmington at home, which was Southington’s first win before Christmas with Cessario at the helm.
“Wins are always springboards,” said Cessario. “Practices get more intense, and you feel a little more momentum. They enjoy each other’s company a little more than they already do because they all like each other. For me, you want to win while making mistakes, which is what we did. We get to learn from it and watch it on film.”
The Knights trailed by two points at the half, as their offense struggled down the stretch after forcing a few turnovers against Farmington’s half-court trap, but their defense remained steadfast throughout the game and picked up in the fourth quarter.
Lohneiss paced the offense with 16 points off a pair of triples, going 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. Ryan Gesnaldo was right behind Lohneiss with 15 points, all of which came in the form of three-pointers. Colin Burdette contributed with seven points.
“If you can get all three guys firing on all cylinders, then we’re going to be a pretty tough team to beat,” said Cessario. “We knew that we needed to match Farmington’s solid guard play coming in. Of course, there were a couple of heart-attack plays, but Burdette’s layup going to the rim twice and his find of Lohneiss in motion were the right plays made at the right time.”
The Indians ended up going 11-for-21 from the foul line.
Earlier in the week, the Knights fell by a pair of points in overtime to open their season with a 59-57 loss at Glastonbury on Monday.
The Tomahawks scored 22 points in the first quarter and led by eight at halftime, but the Knights rallied back to knot the score by the end of regulation with the help of 16 points in the fourth quarter. However, four free throws and a two-pointer pushed the Tomahawks past the Knights, as a pair of baskets from Colin Burdette and Jeremy Mercier weren’t enough. The Knights had two looks to win the game at the buzzer.
“It’s a tough place to play against, and they’re completely revamped from the 6-14 team that they were last year,” said Cessario. “I don’t ever want to emphasize a good loss because everyone wants to win, but a loss like that builds a little bit of seasoned varsity look for them. What we’re trying to do is literally take steps forward every game, and I felt like we took steps forward at Glastonbury.”
Burdette and Andrew Lohneiss paced the offense with 16 points each. Tim O’Shea contributed with 11 points.
After splitting with respectable Division II and III teams this past week, the biggest thing Cessario said he is taking away from his team’s first week of action is the fact that they have to take care of the ball significantly better.
“We need to get Gesnaldo going early,” said Cessario. “We need inside touches to let our bigs feel comfortable turning, facing, and attacking. There are a lot of things on the minutia and finer points of basketball, but I want these guys to continuously work hard and have fun, and I feel like they’re doing that.”
The Knights will be back on the hardwood this week when they travel to Shelton (0-1) on Wednesday, Dec. 27 and play in the Christmas Tournament on Friday, Dec. 29. Southington is currently 1-1.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/12/26/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-dec-29-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.