GREENWICH — Holding a seemingly comfortable 13-point lead midway through the third quarter the Greenwich High School boys basketball team saw its advantage shrink to four points against an upset-minded Westhill squad on Friday night.
The Viking threatened to deal the Cards a Senior Night loss, but the home team held off the visitors and held on to its postseason hopes.
Senior center Oliver Milledge scored a team-high 15 points and junior guard Chris Genaro added points for Greenwich in it’s hard-fought 58-55 Senior Night win over visiting Westhill.
Junior guard Max Steinman contributed 12 points, while senior center Chris Mark totaled 10 points for the Cardinals, who improved to 7-6 overall and 5-6 in the FCIAC with the much-needed victory.
“It was a typical FCIAC game,” Cardinals coach Chris Lovermi said. “Nothing’s easy, it was a grind-it-out effort. Tonight, we made a few more plays than they did at the end and I complement my team for digging in there and getting it done.”
Attacking the basket with vigor, freshman guard Jeyson Slade sparked the Vikings with 17 points. Senior guard Camron Blake had 16 points, including three 3-pointer for rebuilding Westhill (3-12, 1-10 FCIAC).
Greenwich held leads of 36-23, 32-21 and 43-32, behind Genaro’s clutch shooting and Milledge’s strong inside play. Westhill kept coming back though, slicing its deficit to 50-46 on Slade’s layup with 2:50 left.
“That was the fight I have been trying to get these kids to give all season to long,” Westhill coach Howard White said. “I talk to them in practice on Wednesday and explained to them that they need to have that push and that fight. We have yet to play four quarters of basketball and I just wanted them to go out and play four quarters of good basketball.”
After the Vikings made it 51-47 on a Slade foul shot, Milledge sank a pair of key free throws, senior forward Luis Mercado made one shot from the foul line and Steinman converted two, extending Greenwich’s lead with less than one minute remaining.
The Cardinals succeeded at getting the ball to Milledge in the low post.
“They are a really tough team and something we’ve been struggling with all year is physicality, or at least I have, so it was great to be a part of that game,” Milledge. “I think this game was a teaching experience for me, personally, and our entire team.”
Coach told the team to get the ball to me and we did. Even though that I didn’t finish as I would have liked to, we built the lead and got the momentum.”
Greenwich took a 26-21 lead into halftime after Westhill closed the opening half with an 8-1 run.
Trailing 25-13, a 3-pointer by Blake, a layup from Slade and another shot from beyond the arc by Blake, cut Greenwich’s lead to 25-20 with 3:15 remaining in the second quarter.
“Greenwich had nice runs, but we countered with nice runs as well. Unfortunately, we came out on the losing end, but at the end of the day, the performance was good. My main thing is to build upon that performance.”
Genaro swished a 3-pointer from the right side, putting Greenwich on top, 16-10 after the first quarter. He had six first-quarter points.
Genaro had 10 first-half points, while Milledge and had six points in the first half for the Cards. Blake totaled eight opening half points for the Vikings, who received nine points for the game from forward Eli Stockman.
“They battled give credit to them, the got it to six at the half they worked hard a good team and we pulled it out at the end. One more for states, but that’s not all we want. We want to run the table and make FCIACs.”
TOUGH TO STOP
Slade, a speedy, 5-6 point guard, was difficult to defend throughout. He consistenty got to the basket.
“To have a freshman point guard do what he is doing is impressive,” White said. “He is so quick. I’ve been telling him to attack the basket.”
LAYING IT ON THE LINE
Greenwich spent a lot of time at the foul line, making 24 of 37 free throw. Genaro shot 6 for 8 from the line, while Milledge converted 9 of his 13 free throw attempts.
SALUTING THE SENIORS
Prior to the game, Greenwich paid tribute to its seniors — Billy Nail, Milledge, Gavin Muir, Marks, Greg Altamore, Brian Ricks and Mercado.
“It was the first time we’ve won on Senior Night since I’ve been part of the program, so that was a goal of ours — to win on Senior Night,” Nail said. “It’s something we’ll remember.”
Said Milledge: “I’ve been watching this the past couple of years, so it meant a lot to be a part of it tonight. It’s nice for the senior to get recognition for the work we put in.”
“One more win gets us to states, but that’s not all we want,” Genaro said. “We want to run the table and make FCIACs.”
Said Nail: “We know what we have to do, it’s right in front of us. Our goal is to make FCIACs and we know we can do it. Win every single game, that’s our mentality.”
Brian Ricks 0 0-0 0; Chris Genaro 3 6-8 14; Max Steinman 3 5-8 12; Dan Arnold 0 2-2 2; Chris Mark 5 0-2 10; AJ Barber 0 0-0 0; Luis Mercado 0 1-2 1; Billy Nail 1 1-2 4; Oliver Milledge 3 9-13 15. Totals: 15 24-37 58.
Eli Stockman 2 5-6 9; Jeyson Slade 8 1-2 17; Camron Blake 6 1-2 16; Jack Schlachtenhafen 2 1-2 6; Nick Lappas 2 0-0 5; Sergio Thermidor 0 2-2 2. Totals: 20 10-14 55.
3-pointers: G – Genaro 2, Steinman, Nail; W – Blake 3, Schlachtenhafen, Lappas.
Records: Greenwich 7-6; Westhill 3-12.