Greenwich High basketball blitzes St. Joseph, 74-55

Greenwich High School's CJ Byrd finished with 31 points as Big Red upended St. Joseph High school, 74-55. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School’s CJ Byrd finished with 31 points as Big Red upended St. Joseph High school, 74-55. — John Ferris Robben photo

This was one of those games that was keeping Greenwich High School head coach Bill Brehm up at night.

On Tuesday night, Big Red took its perfect 10-0 record and hosted perennial powers St. Joseph High School. Although the Cadets are below .500 and started the season off slow, they were starting to catch some momentum and were looking to continue a two-game winning streak.

However, Brehm had little to worry about during the game, as CJ Byrd’s offensive outburst and Jonathan Palmer’s strong play on defensive helped lead Big Red to a commanding 74-55 victory over St. Joe’s.

“St. Joe’s is a team that travels with an aurora and a history there,” Brehm said. “I was a little nervous about the game because they got their point guard back and (Arkel) Ager back. I thought our kids played tremendous defense and CJ (Byrd) went off. That was the game.”

“They are always one of the best teams in the state and I don’t remember the last time we beat them, but we really stepped up today,” said Palmer, who finished with five points. “We were 10-0 and this was one of those games where we could have fallen asleep, but we didn’t and played great.”

Offensively, Byrd was the team’s leader, finishing with a game-high 31 points. In fact, during a stretch of the third quarter, Byrd outscored the entire Cadets team 10-1. When he wasn’t going hard to the basket, Byrd was connecting on the deep three-pointers or long distance jump shots.

“It was a great team win and we were all feeling it,” Byrd said. “Wolf was hitting some shots inside and Tommy Povinelli was hitting threes early. It all starts from teammates motivating me and telling me to go hard or be confident. It was a great night for us.”

In addition to Byrd’s offensive performance, GHS big man Alex Wolf added 17 points. Povinelli pitched in with 12 points, with nine coming from behind the three-point line.

“We are feeling really good right now and have a lot of team chemistry,” Povinelli said. “CJ is playing amazing and Alex is stronger than ever. John Palmer is stopping every single player on the other teams. We came out with a lot of energy. CJ and Johnny found me open a couple of times and I hit the threes. It felt good.”

When it came to defense, no one had a better game than Palmer. Against the solid shooter from St. Joe’s Jonathan Dzurenda, who is averaging close to 25 points per game, Palmer simply shut him down.

“I played good defense on Dzurenda, but it was really a team effort,” Palmer said. “We played some zone-to-man and CJ had another 30-point game, so that was great.”

Dzurenda was a non-factor in the game and finished with four points.

“The kid is legitimately the defensive player of the league,” Brehm said. “I was thinking of starting him on (Arkel) Ager, but I didn’t realize how big the kid was, so we had him guard Dzurenda. I think that was the right call. Palmer is relentless and doesn’t care about anything other than getting his assignment done.”

In addition to Dzurenda finding four points, Ager added a team-high 16 points. Erick Langston took home 12 points and Joe Mangameli finished with eight points.

With both teams knotted at 5-5, Greenwich took the lead for good when Leonel Hyatt stole the ball and hit the baseline jumper. Helping extend the lead was Palmer, who hit the three-ball from the top of the key.

Povinelli finished the 7-0 Greenwich run when he connected on the running layup in the paint.

With a little over three minutes to play in the second quarter, the Cadets cut the deficit to 23-20, but Big Red controlled play the rest of the half. Wolf started the run by grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring the putback.

With 2:24 to play in the half, Wolf did the same thing, but this time was fouled going up for the shot. The shot was good and Wolf hit the foul shot to make the score 28-20.

On Greenwich’s next time down the court, Byrd launched a three-pointer form the baseline. Although Joe Mangianmele answered with a three-pointer for the Cadets, Povinelli answered as well for Greenwich and hit the long distance three. On his next time with the ball, Povinelli hit one of his two foul shots to complete the 12-3 run for Big Red and made the score 35-23.

With the victory, Greenwich upped its record to an unblemished 11-0 on the season.

“It is a great feeling, but the more success you have, the harder you want to work,” Brehm said. “You don’t want to get complacent and you want the kids to have their heads in the right place. I think these guys are. They are playing with chemistry and playing for each other. We had foul trouble tonight with (Leonel Hyatt) and CJ, and the kids that we had in there actually increased the lead. That’s a luxury and that speaks to the fact that we are a team and not one or two players.”

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