The mark of any good team is how they can adjust on the fly.
Playing in one of their biggest games of the year against Staples High School, the Greenwich High School boys basketball team did exactly that.
Changing from a half-court man-to-man to a 2-3 zone defense, the Cardinals were able to break away form the Wreckers in the second quarter and never looked back. They forced Staples to score eight points in both the second and fourth quarters and cruised to a 55-43 victory Tuesday night.
“This was a huge win for us,” Greenwich High head coach Bill Brehm said. “The kids bought into the game plan. I know Staples was coming off two big wins, but their shooters weren’t as hot as they usually are. We took advantage of that.”
For Greenwich, CJ Byrd and Alex Wolf each dominated the game. Byrd finished the game by tying teammate Alex Wolf and scored 19 points each. Alex McMurray also contributed by netting eight points.
“It was a very important game because the win kept us in FCIACs,” Byrd said. “We are going to try and win the next few games so that we can get a shot at playing in FCIACs. We wanted to come out tonight and make sure we got a lead. On defense we didn’t want them to score and that’s why we went to the 2-3 defense. Man wasn’t working some times, so we needed to change it up.”
The Wreckers were led by James Frusciante, who finished with 12 points. Peter Rankowitz added nine points and Nick Esposito scored right in the losing effort.
“You got to give Greenwich credit because they played a great zone tonight,” Staples head coach Colin Devine said. “They gave us a little bit of trouble, but I thought our defense kept us in the game.”
Greenwich got the victory against the Wreckers mainly due to the team’s ability to adapt. Throughout the first quarter and a portion of the second, Greenwich was getting the shots to fall, however they were not able to stop Staples with the half-court, man-to-man defense. The Staples duo of Frusciante and Darrylle Wiggins were able to get some easy lanes to the net on back-to-back possessions and Brehm knew he had to do something.
So coming off a timeout, Greenwich changed up the defense to a zone, which baffled the Wreckers the rest of the night.
“Initially I didn’t think we were going to play zone because we played such a good half-court man last Thursday against Trumbull, but we needed to,” Brehm said. “We didn’t want to do something that they haven’t been doing, but it’s an asset when you can do that. They were getting some easy open back cut looks. We kept their runs to a minimum when we went to a zone.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Greenwich got a huge help form the return of Wolf, who missed the last two games due to a coach’s decision. However, before the Cardinals got the ball to Wolf, it was the play of Byrd that really set the table.
In the first quarter, when Big Red needed a shooter, Byrd stepped up in a big way, scoring seven of the team’s 11 points in the first quarter. He netted a huge baseline three-pointer with 5:06 to play in the opening quarter to extend the lead to 7-2 and when Big Red fell behind 11-9 with time winding down in the first, Byrd connected on the running baseline layup to tie the game at 11-11.
When Wolf entered the game, he was the added threat Greenwich needed. He immediately got the Cards going in the second quarter, as he scored the first points of the quarter off an offensive rebound and a dunk. Throughout the second quarter, Wolf was getting the ball low and working the Staples defense under the basket.
When the Wreckers thought they were able to stop Wolf underneath, that would open the court up for Byrd and McMurray, who wouldn’t be denied. With 3:40 to play in the half, Byrd fired a three-pointer that tied the game at 20-20. A play later, Byrd was able to get a layup in the paint to give Greenwich the 22-20 lead, a lead that Big Red would never surrender. With less than two minutes to play, McMurray got into the act by grabbing the offensive rebound off of Wolf’s missed bucket and scored on the putback.
Greenwich put the Wreckers away midway through the third quarter. Leading only 32-30, the Cards exploded the rest of the way, courtesy of Wolf, who scored the game’s next six points, all on layups under the basket. McMurray capped off the 7-0 run for Greenwich by netting one of his two foul shots with 54 seconds to play in the third to give GHS the 39-30 victory.
Staples cut the lead to six to end the quarter, but Greenwich calmly sank six consecutive foul shots in the final quarter to keep Staples at bay.
With the victory, Big Red improved to 9-8 overall and 8-7 in the FCIAC. Although thrilled with the win, there’s still a little more work to do if Greenwich wants to compete in the conference tournament. With only three more games remaining in the regular season, every win a crucial for the Cards to win.