ANSONIA – The Russia Raiders used a strong finish in the first half and a good start in the second to create enough separation to hold off a furious rally and defeat Ansonia 42-39 in non-conference action.
Brayden Swabb got the Tigers off to a good start, scoring the first 5 points on a drive to the basket and finishing with the left hand then hitting a triple to put the Tigers up 5-2 at 5:08.
Russia went out front 6-5 on two buckets from Daniel Kearns and then Hunter Buckingham connected on a free throw to tie it up.
Jack Dapore gave the Raiders a lead at 1:20 to conclude the first quarter scoring with an 8-6 lead.
The Tigers took a 15-10 lead at 6:09 on an Aydan Sanders triple, but the Raiders bounced back on the play of Dapore and Kearns, both scoring 7 points each in the quarter.
Devyn Sink helped keep Ansonia close, scoring 10 points, and Sanders had 6.
It was an offensive explosion for both teams in the second quarter, one the Raiders would win 18-16 for a 26-22 lead at the half.
“We had some really good looks early, and if we hit some we’ve got a chance to be up by 7 or 8 at the half, but instead we were down by 4,” Ansonia boys basketball coach Chad Cramer said.
Russia came out after the break and extended its lead to 32-22 as points were hard to come by for the Tigers.
“They were so good and long on defense, and they really defended well,” Cramer said.
“We seemed frustrated most of the night. It was a tournament-type game where defensively they were so good, things didn’t come easy for us tonight, and that’s what tournament basketball is all about, and we need to get better at it.”
Russia’s aggressive defense was working hard to take away the perimeter game, and after a timeout by Coach Cramer the Tigers got more aggressive trying to attack the paint, which finally yielded success as Sink and Sanders both scored in the lane.
The Tigers ended up with just 4 points and just missed out on 2 more when Sink stole the ball and while going up for a layup the horn went off just before the ball was about to come off his fingers. Ansonia fell behind 36-26 heading into the final frame.
The Raiders with the lead were content to run as much time off the clock they could on each possession so the Tigers switched defense to try and speed them up.
“We went to a 1-3-1 trap when we were down by 8 and showed patience without panicking, which is what we would have done in the old days by freaking out trying to get a steal that would lead to an easy layup. There was still a lot of game left so we let them throw it around a little, and it caused them to turn it over, and we got a few steals as well. That happened because we stayed solid. I liked the way we battled back late in the game,” Cramer said.
The Tigers got it to 38-31 with 1:54 to go and after two consecutive steals and a chance to really cut into the lead when they were fouled on back-to-back layups. They would only come away with 2-of-4 free throws.
Russia scored on a layup to go back up 40-33, but Ansonia answered with a big 3-pointer from Trevor Alexander to close to 40-36. It was the only points on the night for Alexander, who was snake bitten twice in the first half when the ball went half way down only to pop back out.
The Raiders beat the Tigers down the floor to get an easy basket. Ansonia came right back. With a hand in his face, Sink drained a triple from the top of the key, and it was 42-39 with 27 seconds to go.
The Tigers got a big steal but turned the ball back over without getting off a shot and were forced to foul immediately. Russia missed both free throws to give Ansonia one last chance.
Just 2.9 seconds remained, and the rebound came off to Sink, who he tried to get up court fast, but he was mauled at half court, and no foul was called. Even if it was called Russia was under the foul limit … but while falling to the ground Sink somehow pushed the ball forward to Sanders.
Sanders tried to fire up a 3-ball, but the clock expired, and Russia survived a late challenge from Ansonia, 42-39.
“I asked the guys after the game, ‘Did stuff come easy for us? Did stuff come easy for them?’ The answer was no. Besides us looking a little disgruntled and Muir still not quite right with his knee, I liked the way we played tonight. We fought hard and came up just a little short … but that was a good high school game,” Cramer concluded.
Ansonia was led by Sink with 19 points. The Tigers fell to 9-8 overall (6-4 Cross County Conference) and will travel to Randolph Southern on Tuesday.
Score by quarters
RU … 08 … 18 … 10 … 06 – 42
AN … 06 … 16 … 04 … 13 – 39
RUSSIA – York 5, Dapore 2, Cohee 4, Dapore 11, Kearns 17, Puthoff 6; Totals 1-19-1/3 – 42
ANSONIA – Aydan Sanders 8, Devyn Sink 19, Hunter Buckingham 1, Brayden Swabb 7, Hunter Muir 1, Trevor Alexander 3; Totals 6-7-7/12 – 39