GUILFORD — Darien hadn’t played in a state tournament game in 24 years before Monday night. Guilford wishes it had waited another year.
The 26th-seeded Blue Wave (11-10) went on a 17-4 run to end the game en route to a 71-56 upset of seventh-seeded Guilford in the CIAC Class L boys’ basketball tournament at the Kenefick Gymnasium. Darien will travel to 10th-seeded Avon Wednesday in the second round.
“It hasn’t been for a lack of effort, but since I played in 2000, we’ve gone through five coaches,” Darien coach Kyle Marian said. “This has been four years in the making and these guys have bought into the program. We had to ask ourselves this week whether it was OK to just make the tournament or continue to make a push.”
Guilford finished 17-6 and knew it had drawn a tough opponent for a first-round game and one that was much better than a 10-10 club coming in.
“It hurts and I know the guys are going to be upset,” Guilford coach Jeff DeMaio said. “We knew they were good and it was going to be a battle. They play in a tough conference (FCIAC) and we got accurate scouting information.”
That information said that the Indians had to contain Darien senior point guard Matt Staubi.
But that was easier said than done.
Staubi scored 20 points in the first half and finished with 32 to lead the Blue Wave into the second round.
“I think he’s one of the best guards in the state and he has a little chip on his shoulder,” Marian said. “He wanted to show the state that he is.”
Staubi scored the first 10 Darien points as the Blue Wave took a 10-8 lead and he had 14 in the opening quarter to put Guilford in an 18-13 deficit.
The Indians fought back with a 9-2 run to grab a 22-20 edge midway through the second quarter. However, Staubi scored six straight points to help Darien take a 31-24 lead at halftime.
The Indians never took the lead again in the game, but closed it to two points, 54-52, on a jumper by Will Cofrances (21 points) with 2:35 remaining. But Darien spent practically all of the remaining time on the free-throw line, while Guilford scored just four points the rest of the way.
Nick Rubino’s 3-pointer with 11 seconds to play was the lone field goal Guilford hit in the final 155 seconds of play.
Besides Cofrances, Luke Dombroski scored 14 points, two above his season average, but he had to change his game a little. With 6-foot-11 Chima Azuonwu in the middle for Darien, Dombroski was forced to take jumpers from the outside.
“Dombroski is a great player, but he’s used to getting cleaner looks,” Staubi said. “He’s a force inside and changes the game. When he puts his hands up, his wingspan is more than 7 feet.”
It was also the first time that Guilford allowed 70 points in a contest all season.
“We usually play teams in the 40s or 50s,” DeMaio said. “We gave up 60 points all year once and they had 31 at halftime. They just made a lot of shots.”
DARIEN 71, GUILFORD 56
Darien 18 13 10 30 – 71
Guilford 13 11 10 22 – 56
Chima Azuonwu 5 0-1 10, John Murray 1 0-0 2, Bobby Fitzpatrick 2 7-8 13, Matt Staubi 10 10-13 32, Hamill 1 1-2 3, George Phillips 2 7-9 11. Totals: 21 25-33 71
Mike Afeltra 1 0-0 3, Will Cofrances 8 1-1 21, Shaun Ross 3 2-3 8, J.P. Barrett 2 1-3 5, Luke Dombroski 6 1-3 14, Tony Pensa 1 0-0 2, Nick Rubino 1 0-0 3. Totals: 22 5-10 56
3-point goals: Darien 4 (Fitzpatrick 2, Staubi 2); Guilford 7 ( Afeltra 1, Cofrances 4, Dombroski 1, Rubino 1); Fouled out: Guilford (Cofrances, Dombroski); Records: Darien 11-10; Guilford 17-6