Greenwich thumps Shelton in opener of CIAC class LL hoops tourney

Greenwich High School's Alex Wolf looks to keep the ball away from his Shelton opponent during Tuesday's CIAC class LL opener. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High School’s Alex Wolf looks to keep the ball away from his Shelton opponent during Tuesday’s CIAC class LL opener. — Avery Belicka photo

With its defense firing on all cylinders early and often, the Greenwich High School boys basketball team was able to grab an early lead and never looked back, opening a 25-point advantage at one point against Shelton High School and finished with the 49-40 victory in the CIAC class LL opener.

For Greenwich, this was their first game back since the heartbreaking FCIAC championship loss to Bridgeport Central six days ago. Brehm admitted that he was concerned with how his team would come out after that lengthy break.

“I thought we came out with some intensity,” Greenwich head coach Bill Brehm said. “Obviously it’s always good to get a ‘W’ after an ‘L’ and this is the first step towards the (Mohegan Sun) and we got four more to go. Obviously you don’t know how they are going to react after a loss, especially an emotional one, but I think we did just fine.”

Overall, Big Red was led by senior CJ Byrd, who finished with a game-high 20 points. Fellow senior Alex Wolf finished with six points, while junior Griffin Golden added seven in the winning effort.

“We are feeling really good right now, but we still have a long way to go,” Wolf said. “Our goal has been to make it to the state championship game. I thought we played better than Shelton tonight and I was happy with the win. We’re taking it one game at a time.”

For the Gaels, senior Michael David finished with 13 points, while fellow senior Patrick Murphy added 11 points. Senior Christian Federici grabbed eight points.

“Defensively we did about as good as we could have,” Shelton head coach Brian Gardiner said. “We played pretty solid defense, for the most part, for the whole season and they did what I asked for them to do defensively tonight as well. We wanted to hold them to the 40s and we did that.”

Although Greenwich had the lead at the end of the first quarter, 12-8, it didn’t come easy. Shelton took a 5-0 lead on Big Red, as Murphy hit a floater in the lane to start the contest and drained a long three-pointer a minute later. In fact, Murphy scored all eight points for the Gaels in the quarter.

“He’s an all-league player,” Gardiner said. “It’s hard for him some times because everybody is focusing on him. He got us going like I asked him to and I wish he could have made a few more. He played really well.”

Although it was only a 10-point contest at the break, Greenwich pulled away in the third quarter.

After Davis got the steal and layup to cut the Greenwich lead to 22-14 to start the third, Big Red wouldn’t be denied. After Leonel Hyatt went 1-for-2 from the lone, Golden hit the lone three-pointer for Greenwich in the game to make the score 26-14 with 5:18 left. Again, Shelton’s Murphy sank the three ball to cut the lead to nine, but Greenwich answered with a Golden jumper and got the lead back to 30-17.

From there it was all Greenwich, as the Cardinals went on a 12-0 run to close out the third. After Wolf grabbed the rebound and scored the putback, Tommy Povinelli got back-to-back layups off steals and Jonathan Palmer got into the act with a steal and layup of his own to make the score 38-19.

“Scouting them, I thought we could pressure them a little bit,” Brehm said. “I didn’t want to do that from the start. I wanted to get the half-court defense and man-to-man. We turned up the pressure a little bit in the third quarter and it definitely helped us build the lead.”

After two missed free throws by Shelton, Byrd scored the next two buckets while charging to the net and made the score 42-19 at the end of the third.

“Their defense is strong,” Gardiner said. “I watched them play live a couple of times and knew they mixed things up. We knew the three-quarter court, 1-3-1 was going to be tough. We couldn’t simulate that in practice. We worked on it, but the JVs can’t simulate that. It gave us trouble and that’s when they separated from us.”

“Shelton played really hard and we held them to 12 points in the first half, but they held us to 22,” Brehm said. “Hats off to them because they had a good game plan and held the ball offensively in a good way. They started to hit threes. However in the second half our pressure got to them. CJ (Byrd) took over offensively and we built a nice lead. In the fourth quarter I guess we looked at the scoreboard and stopped playing defense for some reason.”

With the win, Greenwich improved to 21-3 on the season, while Shelton ended its season with a 9-13 mark.

Up next for the Cardinals is a Thursday night home game against fellow FCIAC foe Wilton High School in the class LL second round. This season, Big Red owned the Warriors, beating them both times they squared off.

 

 

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