WOODBRIDGE – Free throws usually play a determining role in close contests. For the Amity boys basketball team, it was fortunate the one free throw it did make in the latter parts of regulation and two overtime periods proved to be all the insurance it needed.
After missing eight straight free throws in that time period, Joseph Benedetti finally snapped the Amity futility and drained one free throw to give the Spartans a three-point lead, and eventually helped the team to a 55-53 victory over Daniel Hand-Madison in a Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision contest at Amity High Friday evening.
“We are ecstatic where we are as a team,” Amity coach Jeff Nielsen said after his team connected on just 11-of-24 free throws in the game. “We did not play great all game. Our record is a testament to all of the hard work put in. We have played well defensively. We needed to hit a few more free throws down the stretch.”
Benedetti’s free throw with 17.8 seconds left in the second overtime gave Amity a 55-52 lead, proving to be just enough in the victory. The Spartans nearly had to look back and wonder what if after missing five straight free throws down the stretch in regulation, allowing the Tigers to rally and tie the game on a basket by Ethan Haberman with 23 seconds to go in regulation.
“I could not be prouder of this team,” Hand coach Jimmy Economopolis said. “We fought and we battled. Our guards down the stretch had nothing left. We just ran out of gas. Amity is a tough team. We left it all out on the floor.”
Amity’s Tyler Thomas had a chance to win the game for the Spartans in the final seconds, but his shot would not fall, forcing overtime.
The first overtime saw Hand record just single free throws by Jeremy Long and Tyler Boris, the latter coming with 10 seconds to go to even the game at 50. Amity (10-3) had taken a 50-49 advantage with 48 seconds remaining on a bucket by Benedetti.
“We have not played an overtime game all year,” Nielsen said. “We go to double overtime and really dug deep. We played hard out there. It is a nice win for us.”
Thomas, who led Amity with 19 points, got the Spartans going with a basket 1:10 into the second overtime, before Hand’s Boris evened the game at 52. James Van Hise then gave Amity a 54-52 lead, and Benedetti iced the contest with a free throw with 17.8 seconds to go.
“It has been a long week for both teams,” Nielsen said. “We both have had three games. It’s been a tough week. We could have used a few more foul shots down the stretch.”
The Tigers (6-6), fresh off an upset victory over Hillhouse, did a nice job just to force the overtime as they trailed by 10 points with one minute remaining in the first half. A 13-0 run by the Tigers, starting with a basket and free throw by Boris, and ending with bucket by Flynn Driscoll gave Hand a 35-31 lead with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“We had a big win the other night,” Economopolis said. “I was afraid of what type of effort we were going to get after a big win like that. But, we battled and played hard all game, and that is all I can ask for.”
Benedetti, Van Hise and John Nolan each scored eight points in the win for Amity. Boris led Hand with 19 points, while Long had 13, and Haberman added 10.