STAMFORD — Doing it at crunch time can cure many ills.
After fighting itself for three quarters, the Stamford boys basketball team owned the fourth period Monday night to post an important 68-57 home triumph over Norwalk Monday night before a partisan crowd at Paul Kuczo Memorial Gym.
“It wasn’t our best performance,” Stamford coach Dan Lauture said. “But we pulled it out in the end.”
Leading 49-47 with 7:15 left to play, Stamford fashioned a 7-0 run for 56-47 with 5:17 to go. A 3-pointer by Jose Oliva gave SHS breathing room at 62-51 with 3:44 left.
Stamford, which entered Monday night in the No. 9 slot for the eight FCIAC boys basketball playoff berths, has won three of its last four contests and is 7-2 since January 14.
But the road to either the FCIAC playoffs or the Division II state tournament (SHS is ranked No. 15) will not be easy for the Black Knights (10-6, 7-5 FCIAC).
They have four games left in the regular season. SHS must face current FCIAC playoff teams in Warde and Trinity Catholic, a playoff-chasing Wilton squad as well as Danbury.
“The good news is we are still playing for something at this time of the year,” Stamford’s Lauture said. “We can focus on the next game. We have to be ready to lay it on the line.”
The Black Knights didn’t have much urgency early on Monday night. Despite Norwalk senior center Treyjon Lewis sitting much of the second period with foul trouble, Stamford only led 14-13 after one quarter and 30-27 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Stamford committed a host of silly fouls to put Norwalk in the bonus on the foul line with 1:52 left in the period.
Meanwhile, Lewis scored eight of his team-high 21 points and Isaias Gonzalez (12 points) hit two of his four 3-pointers to bring Norwalk (4-9, 3-8 FCIAC) to within 46-45 with 30 seconds left.
But senior Jaden Bell (14 of his game-high 23 points in the second half) and junior center Daniel Simms (10 of his 17 in the second half) helped Stamford keep Norwalk at bay.
Norwalk, which has lost three of its last four and is 1-4 on the road in the FCIAC, hurt itself at the charity stripe. The Bears were 8 of 21 overall on free throws compared to 11 of 13 by SHS.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Stamford’s Daniel Simms: The junior center was a force scoring and rebounding in the fourth quarter despite playing with four personal fouls to key SHS’ surge to victory.
“We were missing two kids from our rotation. But we were mentally weak as a team,” said Norwalk coach Matt Whelan. “We let things bother us and it affects future plays. Stamford scores in bunches. And we got down on ourselves. Foul trouble has hurt us all year. But the kids still commit fouls and have to sit.”