WESTBROOK >> In one of the most memorable nights in Westbrook boys basketball history, senior guard Sam Grigo reached the 1000 career point milestone and senior guard Cade Muckle poured in a game-high 27 points as the Knights remained unbeaten with a 57-45 victory over defending Class M and Shoreline Conference champion Valley Regional Saturday night.
“I tell the kids this all the time…I’m always happy, I’m not always satisfied,” said Westbrook coach Jeff Beeman. “I’m kind of happy and satisfied tonight. It’s a big win. Everybody wants to knock us off because we’re undefeated.”
Westbrook (17-0) joined Fairfield Prep and Greenwich as the state’s only undefeated teams.
“It’s great,” said Grigo. “We’ve got a lot of confidence right now. We just keep finding ways to win and it’s nice to be undefeated at this point.”
Grigo entered the game needing only two points to join the 1000-point club and he did it with a signature 3-point dagger from the corner, giving the Knights an early 5-0 lead.
“It’s a good accomplishment, obviously,” said Grigo. “It took a lot of hard work and a lot of practicing. And it’s a team accomplishment too because my guys have to get me the ball. I do a lot of shooting so it’s a lot on them just getting me in good positions to do what I can do.”
Grigo, who is headed to Brown this fall to play baseball, finished with 15 points.
“He’s a great kid,” said Valley Regional coach Kevin Woods. “A thousand points in a career is really special. We’re happy for him.”
Junior guard Chris Jean-Pierre scored 16 points, while junior guard David Bradbury had 12 points for the Warriors (12-3), which had a 10-game winning streak snapped.
“It wasn’t our best night,” said Woods. “We were cold tonight shooting and very stagnant on offense. But give Westbrook credit.”
Behind senior center Chris Dahl, senior guard Jordan Bernard, senior forwards Mike O’Connell and Connor Cole, freshman guard Liam Bell, Muckle and Grigo, Westbrook held Valley to one of its lowest scoring outputs of the season.
“It was stellar defense,” said Beeman. “If you watched the way we were matching up and the way we took people out of the game…that was more impressive to me than the offensive part of it. And we had the ball bounce our way a few times.”
Grigo drained another 3-pointer late in the first quarter as the Knights built a 12-9 lead after one.
Valley got its first lead at 19-18 on a Bradbury putback late in the second quarter but Muckle closed the half with five straight points and the Knights led 23-19 at intermission.
Bradbury’s top-of-the-key 3-pointer put the Warriors ahead 26-24 with 6:18 left in the third quarter and Westbrook responded again, blanking Valley the rest of the third while taking a 31-26 advantage.
The Knights’ 7-0 spurt was highlighted by a 3-point bomb from Bernard (five points).
Westbrook carried that momentum into the fourth quarter. Grigo canned a runner and a trey from the left wing, stretching the Knights lead to 40-29.
After Jean-Pierre buried a corner trey, Muckle countered with a 3-pointer for a 43-32 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The Warriors got as close as 45-40 with 2:06 remaining. But Muckle sank a pull-up jumper, Grigo added a pair of free throws and Muckle rattled in a pair from the charity stripe and Westbrook led 51-40 with 1:11 left.
“(Westbrook’s) undefeated for a reason,” said Woods. “They’re well-coached. They have guys that believe in their system and they showed that tonight. And they have a couple of guys that can put the ball in the basket. They’re tough.”
Muckle, who also grabbed eight rebounds, capped his big night by converting a coast-to-coast layup with just 29 seconds left.
“We’ve been kind of doing it with smoke and mirrors, trying to figure out combinations and people have stepped up,” Beeman explained. “This guy Cade has averaged over 25 points a game for the last six games since Faruk (Cecunjanin) has been gone.”
Cecunjanin was one of the Knights leading scorers when he suffered a thumb injury. The senior forward is rehabbing from surgery and may be back in time for the Class S state tournament.
Now, the Knights we’ll savor the win against Valley before getting ready to host East Hampton on Tuesday (7:30 p.m.).
“We haven’t beaten (Valley) in a while,” said Grigo. “It’s good to get this win, especially at home.”