The Hall boys basketball team hosted Hartford Public in West Hartford on Thursday night.
By Paul Palmer
It was a struggle, but the Hall Titans boys basketball team got to double-digit wins on the season with a 54-50 win over Hartford Public on Thursday night. The now 10-and-5 team had a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but were outscored 20-8 by a scrappy Owls team that refused to give up.
The host Titans built an early lead in the first quarter and behind the shooting of Justin Hill and Harris Berson, Hall built a 17-8 lead after the opening quarter. The Titan’s lead would be pushed to as much as 12 before before the Owls’ Eric Guy hit a buzzer-beating 3 to close it out at 26-17 at the half.
Hall had done a good job of creating their offense by using the pass instead of the dribble to move the ball against a quick Hartford team in the opening quarter. But in the second, it was the visitors getting the better of things, outscoring Hall 9-8 and building momentum. Hill, Berson, Amecca Freeman, and Spencer Berson each had 6 points for Hall in the first half.
It looked like the Titans (now 10-5) were ready to put things away right out of the gate in the second half. Spencer Berson’s no-look pass found a cutting Chase Hanawalt who laid it in for two and just 2 minutes in Hall had a 32-21 lead. But Hartford – despite a slew of unforced turnovers – would not let the game get away from them. They were down 13 at the end of three, but it did not feel like they were out of it.
As things turned out, having that 12-point cushion to begin the fourth may have been what saved Hall from losing the game. A little over 2 minutes in, Dior Powell made a steal for Hartford, drove the court and was fouled. He hit one of two free throws and the Hall lead was down to 9.
Hill (18 points) helped push the lead back up – first with a nice pass to Colin McGann for a layup, and then hesitating just long enough on his own lay-in to also draw the foul and make it a 12-point lead again.
Hartford cleaned up its earlier sloppy play and with just under 2:30 to play, found themselves down 49-42 after another driving hoop by Rashad Collins. One minute later it was Eric Guy hitting another 3 after a Hall miss, and it was just a 4-point lead now for the Titans.
Out of a timeout, Hall turned the ball over on the inbound, and Jansyn Booth would be fouled as he went for the basket. He hit one of two free throws and with 1:28 to play the score was now 49-46. But Hartford’s chances were dealt a serious blow when Elijah Perry (7 points) and Powell (5 points), two of the Owls’ best players on the night fouled-out within 45 seconds of each other.
With Hartford fouling and hoping Hall would miss their shots from the charity stripe, the clock slowed. Hill hit a pair to give Hall a 5-point lead, but Booth’s two free throws that followed made it 51-48 Titans with 34.3 to play. On the ensuing possession Hall had the ball stolen just over half court, but Freeman managed to steal it back, and race back up the court before he was followed. After sinking his two foul shots, it looked like Hall might be safe with the 5-point lead and 22 seconds left on clock, but Collins hit a driving off-balance shot with defenders in his face and it was a 3-point game at 53-50.
Hall safely inbounded the ball, forcing the Owls to foul one of the Titans’ best free throw shooters in Freeman. He hit his first free throw but missed on the second. Hartford, down 4 points with 9.8 seconds to play, raced down the court for a last-gasp 3-point attempt that missed and when Hall grabbed the rebound the game was over at 54-50.
Freeman would finish with 11 points for Hall, and Spencer Berson and Halawalt each chipped in 8. Hall returns to action on Monday when they travel to 4-9 Avon before a rematch at home with Glastonbury which won the first matchup between the squads in early December.
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