Pictured: Coginchaug’s Jayson Penney looks for space to drive against North Branford’s Jaden Sorrell in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game in Durham. (Photo by Paul Augeri)

By Paul Augeri

DURHAM – When Wednesday night’s game called for Coginchaug to play its best basketball in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils looked like a team that had been there, done that, many times before.

Truth is, coach Todd Salva’s team is in a rebuilding period and hasn’t had many opportunities this season to show what it can do with a lead. But this wasn’t one of those nights. Coginchaug controlled the last six minutes and shut down North Branford on the offensive end to come away with a 44-31 Shoreline Conference victory.

Coginchaug held leads of 18-17 at halftime and 24-21 after three quarters. In the fourth, as it had throughout the night, the Blue Devils’ defense on the interior continued to deny the T-Birds opportunities to get to the basket and get back in the game.

North Branford (2-15) produced just eight field goals over 32 minutes.

“We just wanted to defend the arc,” said Coginchaug coach Todd Salva. “They’re not the greatest shooting team in the world. I didn’t want to extend the defense. They are pretty good at getting to the basket and we figured if we could take that away and keep them on the perimeter and take care of the ball, we’d have a shot (to win).”

Junior guard Jayson Penney scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter as the Blue Devils won for just the third time in 14 games.

Salva, who announced earlier this week that this, his 31st season as coach, will be his last, was pleased to see the Devils push the tempo with the lead. Breaking North Branford’s pressure led to easy layups on the other end or foul situations.

“I thought the layups we got, because guys were making themselves available, they kept attacking the basket is what they did,” Salva said. “They didn’t play on their heels. We’ve had close games before where we get in the fourth quarter and we played not to lose. Tonight, we played to win. We didn’t sit on our heels. We get the ball going toward the basket and we got some high percentage s hots down the stretch. And we made enough free throws.”

Jack Meehan 1 0-2 2, Blake Pearson 2 0-0 5, John Onofrio 1 6-8 9, Jake Saldutti 0 3-4 3, Ben Stegina 0 0-0 0, Ryan Monde 1 0-0 3, Drew Girardi 1 0-0 2, Jaden Sorrell 1 2-2 4. Totals: 8 11-16 31.

Sam Whittle 0 2-2 2, Connor Willett 2 2-2 6, Jayson Penney 7 7-10 24, Adam Schaffter 2 4-7 8, Henry Bugai 0 0-0 0, Colin Murphy 0 0-0 0, Evan Poggio 0 0-0 0, Preston Mennone 0 0-0 0, Fracisco Marrotto 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 15-23 44.

Score By Quarters
North Branford…..9 7 4 11–31
Coginchaug…….12 6 6 20–44

3-pointers: North Branford–Pearson 1, Onofrio 1, Monde 1; Coginchaug–Penney 3.
Up next: North Branford at Cromwell, Friday, 7; Coginchaug vs. Portland, Friday, 7.

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