Bridgeport Central ends Greenwich's perfect season


Greenwich High’s Leonel Hyatt goes hard to the basket during a recent game at GHS.  — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High’s Leonel Hyatt goes hard to the basket during a recent game at GHS. — John Ferris Robben photoIt wasn’t the prettiest game for both Greenwich High School and Bridgeport Central High School during Tuesday night’s highly-hyped battle of the top two FCIAC teams.

On one side, you had the Cardinals, a team that gave up 36 offensive rebounds to the Hilltoppers. Central wasn’t much better, as they shot a brutal 12-for-30 from the foul line and actually went nearly seven minutes without scoring a point.

However, when the dust settled, Central was able to outlast Big Red down the stretch and took the 53-45 victory to give Greenwich its first loss of the regular season.

“Central is really fast, they hit the boards a lot and they were getting second and third chances at scoring,” Greenwich High School head coach Bill Brehm said. “Even when we got the rebound, they hit it out of our hands a couple of times. Versus their 2-2-1, we kind of threw the ball away a little too much. We go against a 2-2-1 in practice every day, but it’s hard to recreate what Central does with their quickness and their rotation. We thought we could have beaten them, but those offensive rebounds and throwaways really hurt us.”

Big Red, which held a slim 9-6 lead at the end of the opening quarter and was up 24-16 at the break, was led by CJ Byrd, as the senior finished with a team-high 17 point. Senior center Alex Wolf finished with 13 points, while Griffin Golden added five.

“This game was definitely a battle and I thought we had a good first half,” Wolf said. “We played a team that plays good defense, but in the second half Bridgeport brought the intensity and we had a lot of trouble breaking their press. We also had trouble because I think we put too much pressure on us. We had a little lead, but it was hard to get over the hump tonight.”

The duo of Patrick Santini and Tommy Povinelli each added four points in the losing effort.

“The first loss never feels good, but we are going to go back and watch tape and learn from it,” Povinelli said. “The turnovers definitely killed us, but we are going to be working on breaking the pressure all week and learn how to break them. Hopefully we will see Bridgeport Central again.”

For Central, Tyler Anchrum led the way with 17 points. Not far behind was Marcus Blackwell, who added 13 points. Both Antwan Pettway and Siquan Bretox added six points, while teammate Orhan Cecujanin took home four points.

Although Big Red was leading early, Byrd was the team’s main performer, as he hit back-to-back layups driving the lane and drained two foul shots. In total, he scored all but three of Greenwich’s points in the opening quarter.

Big Red applied the pressure in the second quarter and took advantage of the Hilltoppers inability to net points. Before Central’s Blackwell connected on a layup with 6:07 left in the first half, the last points Central scored were with 4:05 to play in the first quarter.

Greenwich built up its lead with 2:25 to play in the half, as Byrd hit both his foul shots and Golden connected on a three-pointer with 46 seconds to play. That was immediately followed up by a Wolf dunk off a Povinelli behind the back pass. Kyle Foote ended the scoring in the half and built the lead to 24-16 when he went 1-for-2 from the line.

“We made a couple of adjustments against the 2-2-1 at halftime and we thought we were going to execute in the second half, but I don’t think we really did. We figured they would go on a run and start hitting shots.”
Going into the third quarter, Greenwich held its own and was able to keep the lead until 2:00 to play in the quarter, when Pettway hit a hook in the lane to make the score 32-32. Both teams hit two foul shots and heading into the final frame, Greenwich and Central were tied at 34-34.

Although Byrd got the offensive rebound and putback to give Big Red the lead to start the fourth, Central went on a run. Anchrum got the steal and layup, was fouled and hit his foul shot. Another steal and layup, followed by an offensive rebound and putback by Cecujanin gave the Hilltoppers the 41-36 lead with 6:25 to play.

From there, Central used its stifling defense to prevent Greenwich from getting open looks and mounting a comeback.

“We have a lot of seniors on the team and I thought we could play our way through it,” Brehm said. “We are going to watch video and adjust the 2-2-1. We didn’t score off of that as much as we needed to. We need to take four to the boards and I think we need to be more careful with the basketball.”

With the loss, Greenwich fell to 14-1 overall and 12-1 in the FCIAC. On the other side, Central improved to 14-1 on the regular season and 13-1 in league play.

“We were talking about this loss in the locker and if we went undefeated, we could start thinking that we are better than everybody and get complacent,” Wolf said. “I think we actually needed this type of game to get us ready for the playoffs. I wish we were victorious tonight, but it’s not the end of the world that we lost.”

Luckily for Greenwich High School, they might get the opportunity to exact revenge on the Hilltoppers. In two weeks, both teams will be competing in the FCIAC championship tournament.

If the ball bounces the right away, these two teams could possibly meet up again in the tourney and this time Big Red will be hungry for revenge.

“We are going to need to lower our turnovers and rebound the ball,” Povinelli said. “I think Wolf and Leonel (Hyatt) did a great job tonight, but the supporting cast, including myself, needs to work on boxing out and getting rebounds.”

“I am just really looking forward to the FCIAC playoffs,” Wolf said. “That’s my target. We are going to be ready for that. We are going to have to work on breaking  press. This game was a lot more of a mental game too. I feel like when we made a couple of mistakes, our confidence was down. We have to come out really strong and have our heads up high.”

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