Greenwich basketball falls to Central in FCIAC championship game

Greenwich High School's CJ Byrd looks to get the ball past Central's Tyler Ancrum during Thursday night's FCIAC championship game. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School’s CJ Byrd looks to get the ball past Central’s Tyler Ancrum during Thursday night’s FCIAC championship game. — Paul Silverfarb photo

The Greenwich High School boys basketball team gave it everything they had against Bridgeport Central in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship game.

Cutting a double-digit lead to one in the third quarter, the Cardinals would fight throughout most of the game to catch up to Central. However, Tyler Ancrum and the rest of the Hilltoppers were just too much down the stretch, as they were able to capitalize on numerous Big Red turnovers and took the FCIAC title with an 80-72 victory.

“We had a lot of heart in there and I told the guys that if you can look in the mirror and you gave it your all, which I think they did, then we have nothing to be ashamed of,” Greenwich High head coach Bill Brehm said. “They were a better team. When you have 20 or so turnovers, I’m surprised we didn’t lose by 30. It was our hearts that was the reason it wasn’t a bigger loss.”

CJ Byrd led all scorers with 27 points for Greenwich, while Alex Wolf grabbed 22 points and Griffin Golden added 17 points. Tommy Povinelli added four points, while Patrick Santini finished with three and Leonel Hyatt added two.

For Central, Ancrum, who was named the FCIAC tournament’s Most Valuable Player, finished with a team-high 26 points. Orhan Cecunjamin added 18 points and Dondre Daniels grabbed 11 point. Rounding out the top scorers for Central was Marcus Blackwell, who finished with 10 points.

Big Red's Tommy Povinelli pushes the ball towards the Central hoop during the FCIAC championship game. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Big Red’s Tommy Povinelli pushes the ball towards the Central hoop during the FCIAC championship game. — Paul Silverfarb photo

“It’s my senior year, so going out like this is great,” Cecunjamin said. “I love it. Last year we were the underdogs and this year we had the bulls-eye on our chest. We knew we had to come out hard. We still played like underdogs every game so far this season. Greenwich is good and their big kid makes me work really hard. Byrd is a scorer. Everything today was better. The first time we played them was a mess.”

After Bridgeport Central built a 33-22 lead with three minutes left in the half, Big Red was able to cut the halftime deficit to five, as Golden had two clutch layups, Wolf hit two fouls shot and added a layup and Povinelli connected on a running layup in the paint as time expired to make the score 37-32.

The Cardinals kept the good times rolling in the third quarter, as Byrd calmly drained a pair of baseline three-pointers and Wolf grabbed the offensive rebound and scored the putback to make the score 46-45 with just over four minutes to play.

However, that’s as close as Greenwich got, as the Hilltoppers took advantage of Greenwich turnovers and missed shots close to the basket. Before the Cardinals could blink, the Hilltoppers built the lead back up to 55-47.

“It’s tough to get over the hump,” Brehm said. “Their pressure was relentless and Ancrum is so quick. It’s tough to recover and not get it swiped from you. As much as you work on it with seven or eight guys in practice, it still isn’t a game situation with five guys from Bridgeport Central.

Early on, Greenwich built a quick 9-4 lead, as Byrd went 1-for-2 from the line and then hit a pull-up jumper. Despite Daniels tying the game with a three-pointer and eventually grabbing a 4-3 lead, Greenwich stormed back, as Byrd hit the floater off the glass and came back with a running layup in the paint that was good.

Around a minute later, Wolf grabbed the offensive rebound and netted the putback to make the score 9-4 with 4:06 to play in the opening quarter.

“We played under control and kept out composure,” Byrd said. “Basically we didn’t want to lose control, especially against a full-court press

Despite the loss, Greenwich hasn’t ended its season quite yet. Starting up on Monday, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference boys basketball tournament gets underway.

Big Red will be battling the best of class LL. With a 18-2 regular season record and 20-2 overall, the Cardinals will be the No. 4 seed in the tournament and their first opponent will be No. 29 seeded Shelton, as the Gaels enter the playoffs with a 9-11 regular season record.

The game will be played at Greenwich High School and is slated to start Tuesday night at 7 p.m.. The championship game is slated to be played at the Mohegan Sun Arena and is scheduled for either March 22 or March 23.

“In the locker room we discussed that it might not be the last time we seem them,” Brehm said. “I am really proud of the way we played and we are not done yet. We got a state tournament ahead of us. We are committed to the Sun, so it’s not over yet.”

For Brehm, cutting down on turnovers and perfecting the little things will help Greenwich go far in this year’s state tournament.

“If we face a team like this again, we certainly have to cut down on the turnovers,” Brehm said. “Turning 28 turnovers into 14 or less is something we will have to do. We played hard tonight, so I can’t fault that. When we can execute offense, we can do that well. The problem is that when you face those defenses, you can’t get into the flow of man-to-man. We need to score and make more layups.”


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