NEW CANAAN — It was only fitting that on Teacher Appreciation Night, the New Canaan Rams’ basketball team put on a veritable clinic, schooling the Norwalk Bears 65-49 in front of a large and raucous crowd at New Canaan High School.
The Rams turned a 14-12 deficit with 30 seconds left in the opening stanza into a 16-14 lead heading into the second quarter and never looked back, flexing to a 20-point advantage in the fourth before coasting to the win.
New Canaan improved to 11-3 overall and 7-3 in the FCIAC with its fourth victory in a row and its seventh win in the last eight games. The 11 wins is a high-water mark for the Rams since the 2007-08 season, when a great Will Hanley-led team went 19-5 and reached the quarterfinals of the CIAC state tournament.
That year also marks the last time that the Rams qualified for the FCIAC playoffs, a drought New Canaan hopes to end this season.
“I can’t say that I’ve ever been part of a basketball team like this,” senior co-captain Ben Sarda said. “It’s really special what we have here and the fans make it just so much better supporting us.”
Ball distribution, strong defense and balanced scoring — as it has so many times this season— — was the story of the night for New Canaan. The Rams’ airtight defense closed off the paint and forced Norwalk into taking difficult perimeter shots.
Offensively, the Rams landed nine players in the scoring column as their passing and seemingly endless cutting opened up easy scoring opportunities under the basket.
“We get contributions from everyone,” New Canaan head coach Danny Melzer said. “I think the guys feed off that. They pick each other up and they’re happy for each other when they score. There’s no selfishness in the group and the multiple contributions helped us out again tonight.”
Senior Stephen Wronski was New Canaan’s high scorer with 11 points. Sophomore Leo Magnus added 10 points — all in the fourth quarter. Junior Alex Gibbens scored nine and senior co-captain Jack Richardson, senior Matt Brand and junior Ryan McAleer each chipped in with eight points apiece.
“That’s who we are and that’s why we’re successful,” Melzer said. “When defenses come in to play us it’s hard to prepare because they have to respect everyone on our team, in stead of just keying on one or two guys. Our guys shared the ball really well tonight and we’ve really done that all year.”
After a seesaw first quarter that had 10 lead changes, New Canaan pulled away in the second. Gibbens opened the quarter with a layup off a beautiful feed from Wronski to put the Rams up 18-14.
Norwalk junior Jahmai Green hit a three to make it 18-17, but baskets from Richardson and Wronski extended the Rams lead to 22-17.
New Canaan closed out the half on a 12-7 run. Sarda scored five of his seven points during the stretch, Gibbens drilled a three and Wronski added four points including a jumper at the buzzer to send the teams into the intermission with the Rams up 34-24.
The Rams put the game away early in the third, scoring the period’s first five points and keeping Norwalk off the scoreboard until the 5:32 mark to go up 41-24.
McAleer had the hot hand in the third quarter, scoring six of the Rams’ 17 points. Wronski added five in the third and Gibbens, Sarda and Brand each had a basket as New Canaan headed into the final quarter up 51-33.
Aaron Fishman’s driving layup to open fourth gave New Canaan’s its largest lead of the game, 53-33. Norwalk (2-10, 1-8 FCIAC) would show glimpses of its potential down the stretch as freshman Cam Edwards scored eight points in the quarter and junior Jamal Boyd added five.
New Canaan was able to stay comfortably in front however, helped out by Magnus’ offensive outburst which was capped off by a long-range three as the final seconds ticked off the clock to cap off New Canaan’s first win over the Bears since 2011.
“Norwalk is young and scrappy and they played extremely hard until the end,” Melzer said. “That’s a credit to (Norwalk head coach) Matt Whelan and what he’s trying to build. I’ve been there and I know what it’s like. I think our experience and depth wore them down a little bit. It’s another win for us so I’m happy about that. Now we need to turn our focus to Friday and McMahon.”
NEW CANAAN 65, NORWALK 49
Norwalk 14 10 9 16 – 49
New Canaan 16 18 17 14 – 64
Rudy Robert 4 0-0 11, Jahmai Green 4 0-0 10, Cam Edwards 4 0-0 8, Jamal Boyd 1 3-4 5, Lomo House 2 0-3 4, Jaydn Grant 1 0-0 2, Dylan Polka 2 1-1 7, Trey Lewis 1 0-0 2, Jerimah Simeon 0 0-1 0. Totals 19 4-9 49
Stephen Wronski 4 3-3 11, Leo Magnus 3 2-2 10, Alex Gibbens 4 0-0 9, Ryan McAleer 3 2-4 8, Matt Brand 4 0-0 8, Ben Sarda 3 0-0 7, Jack Richardson 4 0-0 8, Luke Rwambuya 1 0-0 2, Aaron Fishman 1 0-0 2. Totals 27 7-9 65
3-pointers: Norwalk – Roberts 3, Green 2, Polka 2; NC – Magnus 2, Sarda, Gibbens
Records: Norwalk (2-10 overall, 1-8 FCIAC); New Canaan (11-3, 7-3)