Hornets Sweep Week by Earning Three Victories
Freshman Jake Palluzzi (right) and the Branford boys’ basketball team improved to 4-2 this season by winning all three of their games last week. Pictured on the left is Branford senior Tucker Jacobson. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior Tucker Jacobson (No. 14) had 16 points for the Hornets when they defeated Guilford by a 61-56 score on Feb. 22. Also pictured for Branford is freshman Jake Palluzzi. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Junior David McDonald (left) and Branford boys’ hoops earned wins versus Guilford, North Haven, and Cheshire in last week’s matchups. McDonald and fellow junior Dylan Sachs (left) made key contributions for the team throughout the week. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior Justin Elpi gave an excellent defensive effort and also scored 13 points to help Branford claim a 55-51 versus Cheshire on Feb. 26. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
The Branford boys’ basketball team was looking to gain some momentum after having lost its last two games entering last week’s action. The Hornets did exactly that by winning all three of their matchups to improve their overall record to 4-2 on the year.
Branford started off last week by earning a 61-56 road victory versus Guilford on Feb. 22. The Hornets went on to claim a 67-47 home win over North Haven on Feb. 24 and then defeated Cheshire by a 55-51 score at Branford High School on Feb. 26.
Branford trailed Guilford 23-12 after the first quarter of their contest, but outscored the Grizzlies in both the second (13-7) and third (17-14) quarters to cut the deficit to 44-42 entering the fourth. Branford went on to win the fourth quarter by a 19-12 margin to secure the five-point victory.
“We just looked at it possession by possession. We tightened up on defense. The kids were in a good mindset. We only gave up seven points in the second quarter,” Head Coach Chris Burnham said. “When we started squeezing the guys off the ball, we thought we found something that worked. We wanted to challenge what their kids were going to do off the ball. The kids started building confidence and got us back in the game. It really propelled our week.”
Senior Tucker Jacobson scored 16 points in the game for the Hornets. Freshman Jake Palluzzi scored 14 points, and junior David McDonald had 12 points in the win. Junior Dylan Sachs added nine points on the night.
Coach Burnham was impressed with Jacobson’s performance in the Guilford game. Burnham feels pleased to see Jacobson improving on the court as a senior.
“Tucker Jacobson grew up. He didn’t have a good practice before that Guilford game. We were concerned where his head was going to be at,” said Burnham. “He came out and played the role we needed him to play. I’m very proud of what he has done. I know it wasn’t easy for him.”
Two days later, the Hornets claimed a 67-47 victory over North Haven in a home game. Branford started the game on a 10-0 run and held a 36-15 lead at halftime on its way to the win.
Palluzzi turned in another solid performance by netting 18 points for Branford. Senior Dominic Bonanno had 14 points, while Jacobson scored 13 points. Senior Justin Elpi scored nine points to help the Hornets emerge victorious.
Coach Burnham was glad to see Branford carry over its momentum from the Guilford win by defeating North Haven. Burnham said the Hornets are playing with more confidence on the court and winning games that they might not have in the past.
“We got one of those demons off our back. We didn’t let those six threes in the first half [against Guilford] bury us like it had before, and we took that into North Haven,” Burnham said. “The energy stayed well. They were very mature. We played very well. We jumped on them 10-0 and that’s not like us. I’m really proud of these kids and how far they’ve come.”
Then on Feb. 26, Branford hosted Cheshire and claimed a 55-51 victory against the Rams. The Hornets held a 23-20 halftime advantage and then outscored Cheshire 20-10 in the third quarter to take a 43-30 lead into the final frame. The Rams outscored Branford 21-12 in the fourth, but the Hornets were able to withstand Cheshire’s comeback effort and walk off the floor with the win.
“Cheshire is tough. Anyone that knows Cheshire knows they’re going to play you tough. I was so impressed with this team and how well they defended them,” Coach Burnham said. “They competed, and that’s not what we were a year ago. That third quarter was about listening to adjustments at halftime and committing to them. I told them to be confident on offense and let’s get after it. Last year, we would have lost that game.”
Palluzzi scored 17 points to lead Branford in the scoring column. Elpi had 13 points, Jacobson scored 11 points, and Sachs had eight points for the Hornets.
Coach Burnham said that Elpi’s defense proved crucial for Branford in the victory and that the Hornets wouldn’t have won the game without his efforts. In terms of Palluzzi, Burnham was happy with how the freshman played in all three games last week and believes that people in the Southern Connecticut Conference will be hearing his name for years to come.
“Dan Lee at Cheshire said he threw three of his best athletes at him, and that he couldn’t believe his demeanor,” Burnham said of Palluzzi. “He said he threw major football athletes at this kid, and they couldn’t get in his head. It’s very impressive. Get used to it. That’s not an anomaly.”
While he was thrilled with the victories, Coach Burnham felt equally pleased with how the Hornets performed as a team throughout the week. Burnham credits Branford’s seven seniors—Elpi, Jacobson, Bonanno, Sean McCarthy, Nicholas Volpe, Jackson Van Gelder, and Kamryn Holmes—with buying into the system and putting the work in to help make the team successful. Jacobson and Van Gelder are Branford’s captains.
As Branford enters the second half of the season, Coach Burnham is hoping that the recent three-game win streak will show the team what it needs to do to succeed. Burnham wants the Hornets to continue playing gritty basketball and grind out as many wins as they can this winter.
“Some of the reasons why we’ve been winning games is we put on the hard hat and decided that we’re going to have to grind things out,” said Burnham. “We have to match the toughness and the intensity of the other team for 32 minutes. When we do, we are finding out that we can beat those teams. Mistakes happen on both sides, but can you match a work ethic to overcome those?”