It’s still early in the district season for must-win or do-or-die games, but the Tidehaven Tigers were in need of a boost after losing their first three 24-3A games.
The Tigers got the shot in the arm they needed Tuesday when they beat Danbury 56-51 for their first district victory.
“We had to win it. It wasn’t a must win, but we really wanted to win this one. This puts us back on a pace to potentially make the playoffs,” Tidehaven Coach Josh Faglie said. “I’ll take a win any way I can get it at this point. They’ve been hard to find.”
Getting that first district win was by no means easy, although it looked like it would be for the Tigers early in the game. They held a 16-3 lead after the first quarter and looked like they would cruise to a win. Danbury rallied and had the lead several times in the second half before the Tigers finally subdued them.
In the fourth quarter, Tidehaven’s Austin Smith played a huge role in the subduing the Panthers. Smith, who scored 30 points in the game, scored 13 points in the final 4 minutes for the Tigers.
“He’s been getting better every game. He’s getting tougher and tougher. They don’t have a lot of size to speak of and he did what he needed to do, which was to score down low. He did a great job with that,” Faglie said. “It’s not easy to go from a guard to go play down low for the majority of the game, but he’s done it for me this year. I think it’s helped his game.”
Danbury held a 47-46 lead with 3:15 left in the game when Smith outscored the Panthers 8-2 to give the Tigers a 54-49 lead. Kylan Sardinea sealed the win for Tidehaven when he hit a pair of free throws with 2 seconds remaining the game.
In the first quarter, Tidehaven closed the quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 13-point advantage into the second. Sardinea hit a pair of 3-pointers during the run. Ben Ruiz added a basket off a rebound and Smith finished the run with a dunk off an alley oop pass.
Danbury climbed back into the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Tigers 20-9 in the period. They did so on the strength of four 3-pointers Michael Norman, who hit a total of six in the game for 18 points.
It was a 3-pointer from Danbury’s Chase Fulcher that tied the game 23-23 with 1:50 left in the second quarter.
Smith and Kaden Henry each hit a free throw in the final seconds of the first half to give the Tigers a 25-23 lead at halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Smith tallied four points to help the Tigers to a 29-24 lead. Danbury went on a 9-2 spurt to put the put the Panthers on top 33-31.
The Tigers closed the quarter on a 7-3 run to take a 38-36 lead into the fourth. Smith, Henry and Mason Perales each scored a basket during that run.