Seven 3-pointers in the first half, a 19-point second quarter lead, two players with more than 15 points — indeed, the numbers added up for the New Canaan boys basketball team in its game against host Greenwich on Tuesday night.
Needing to get back on the track, following two consecutive losses, the Rams used stellar shooting from the perimeter, a balanced scoring attack and strong defensive play to do so.
Senior forward Alex Gibbens scored a game-high 18 points and junior forward Leo Magnus added 17 points to propel visiting New Canaan past Greenwich, 66-49, in an FCIAC matchup.
The victory put the breaks on a two-game skid and upped the Rams’ record to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in FCIAC action. New Canaan held a 17-6 lead after the first quarter and entered halftime with a 35-22 advantage. Gibbens scored 12 of his 18 points during the first two quarters.
“We came out really strong,” Gibbens said. “Everyone was shooting well, moving the ball well. We drove and kicked and knocked down shots. Tonight, we had a lot more people scoring this game, which was great to see.
Junior forward Christian Sweeney converted three 3-pointers in the first half and scored 11 of his 13 points, helping the Rams open a double-digit advantage.
“Christian Sweeney made some big shots in the first half and brought some energy,” said New Canaan coach Danny Melzer, who guided the Rams to a state title in 2019. “When you have Gibbens, it opens things up for everyone else.”
Pacing Greenwich (1-4) was senior guard Max Steinman, who scored 11 points, including two 3-pointers. The Cardinals cut the Rams’ lead to 10 points on several occasions during the second half, before the visitors extended their edge late in the third quarter and into the final quarter.
“We couldn’t get over the hump,” GHS coach Chris Lovermi said. “We had a couple of opportunities to get into single digits and we made some nice runs. I love the fact that we don’t give up and show resiliency. But we need longer periods of efficiency.”
Added Steinman: “It’s definitely very tiring to try to come back and overcome that hump. We have to run our sets, we are not running our plays right and if we run them correctly, they should work.”
Magnus made a leaner in lane against Greenwich’s man-to-man defense and senior center Jon Hall made a pair of foul shots, giving the Rams a 30-11 lead with just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter.
A pair of 3-pointers from Steinman and a shot from beyond the arc by senior Teddy Hasapis brought the Cards to within 32-20 late in the second quarter. Sweeney swished a 3-pointer making it 35-20 in the final minute of the second stanza.
“The first half they hit seven 3s,” Lovermi said of New Canaan’s shooting. “To limit their 3s was on the board in our locker room and we didn’t do that. The second half we did a better job of that.”
Layups from Hall and Sweeney put the Rams on top, 44-26, with 4:30 left in the third quarter, but GHS went on a 6-0 run to make it 44-34 at the 1:54 mark of the quarter. Greenwich also came to within 10 points midway through the fourth quarter, but the Rams pulled away, with senior guard Ryan McAleer effectively running the offense. He finished with seven points, as did senior guard Brandon Sechan.
“We didn’t expect their pressure right away, they did a pretty good job of getting up on us,” McAleer said. “But we did a good job of driving and kicking and we knocked down our shots. It’s definitely good to see that we’re making our shots when we need to.”
Said Melzer: “It all starts with our point guard play. Ryan has been a rock for us for three years now.”
Sophomore forward Chason Barber scored eight points, senior forward Jayden Solomon had seven points and senior forward Matt Pilc had six for Greenwich.
“We started off slow and they came out with more energy and intensity,” Greenwich senior guard Christopher Genaro said. “Once your down in a hole like that’s it’s tough to come back out. They hit shots at the beginning and we didn’t. We fought back down 20 to cut it to 10 at one point, but we have to keep the same intensity the whole game.”
Said Melzer: “Give our guys credit. They stuck with it and finished the game the way you need to finish games in order to win. It’s tough to win on the road in the FCIAC, period. Any road win is a good win and I’m proud of the way we responded to a little bit of adversity.”