Through the past three decades, Jake Palluzzi has put together an illustrious coaching career that began with four seasons at North Branford and has since featured him guiding Branford boys’ basketball to plenty of prosperity in his 25 campaigns. An indication of Palluzzi’s success was clearly visible on Jan. 11 when the Hornets played at division rival Career, a game in which a victory would mark his 300th all-time win. Well, it’s only appropriate that Branford came away with a 59-52 overtime triumph in a stirring contest in New Haven as, by virtue of beating Career, the Hornets gave Palluzzi win No. 300 in his career.
As one might expect, Branford’s athletes were enthused about helping their beloved coach achieve this milestone, although Palluzzi himself was quick to deflect the credit back to his players for beating such a strong team on the road in a tight contest.
“The biggest thing about 300 wins is it means I’ve been around awhile and in a lot of contests. It’s really about these kids winning this game,” said Palluzzi, whose team had previously beat Hamden 51-44 to stand at 6-3 overall and 1-1 in the SCC Oronoque. “I wouldn’t have had any idea about my 300th win if it wasn’t for my brother [Alex] and so I just tried to get the kids prepared for the game and they came through with a big win. They were pumped up and I’m proud of them.”
The Hornets stormed out to an 11-3 advantage early against the Panthers, who would go on a run in the second quarter to cut Branford’s lead to three at halftime. Career then used a big third quarter to take a 10-point lead and Branford was further hampered by the fact that Andy Klarman and Curt Sutherland each picked up their fourth foul in the third and would foul out with more one.
But that didn’t happen as Klarman and Sutherland played the rest of the way and helped the Hornets get back in the game in the final frame with Klarman hitting a put-back to put his team up by two with 10 seconds to play. Although Career then tied it with a lay-up to send the game to overtime, Branford’s defense put the clamps on the Panthers by holding them scoreless in OT, a period that saw Sutherland score six points to help the Hornets emerge victorious.
Sutherland scored 11, Klarman had 14 points with 15 rebounds, Alex King scored 15, Restinel Lomotey notched 13 points with eight boards, and Jon Fuller had six assists and four steals for Palluzzi’s squad.
Said Palluzzi: “It was a tremendous win for our program to beat a team that won a state title last year on their home court.”