Greenwich High hoops survives Wilton in OT to reach CIAC quarters

Greenwich High School's Tommy Povinelli connects on a three-pointer during the second half of the CIAC class LL second round game against Wilton. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High School’s Tommy Povinelli connects on a three-pointer during the second half of the CIAC class LL second round game against Wilton. — Avery Belicka photo

The Greenwich High School boys basketball team was given everything Wilton High School had during the second round of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL tournament earlier tonight.

The Warriors held Big Red to six points in the first quarter and hit the last second three-pointer to send the game to overtime.

However, the defense of Greenwich’s Jonathan Palmer and shooting of CJ Byrd and Alex Wolf was too much down the stretch, as the Cardinals held on for the dramatic 67-61 victory.

“It’s so awesome,” GHS senior Jonathan Palmer said. “It all the seniors that I’ve known forever, it’s a great feeling. Beating a team three times is really hard to do. We came from eight points down and they came back and we were still able to come out with the win. It was so much fun.”

For Greenwich, this was the third meeting against the Warriors, with Big Red taking all three games.

“Certainly we expected Wilton would to come out with something different to try and keep the score within single digits and they certainly did that,” said Greenwich head coach Bill Brehm. “They took us to overtime, playing that diamond-and-one box against CJ (Byrd). That really threw us. They played really well. The fact that (Eric) Houska didn’t have one field goal and they still took us to overtime is a huge tribute to Joel and his players. They executed their game plan perfectly.”

However the third and final meeting of the season was, by far, the closest.

“For two games in a row, those kids gave me everything that they have,” Wilton head coach Joel Geriak said. “If we are up by 10 or down by 10, they don’t stop. They give me everything that they can and as a coach, you can’t ask for anything more.”

Byrd finished the game with a team-high 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Wolf took home 18 points, but led the way with 16 rebounds.

After scoring only three points in the first half, Byrd exploded onto the scene in the second half. Finding a way to get Greenwich’s star shooter the ball, Byrd dominated the second half and overtime, finishing with a game-high 21 points.

“We found the way to get him the ball,” Brehm said. “We set screens for him and CJ was using big Wolf down low. We tried to get him the ball in the full court and get him the ball in the open court, which they did a great job in the first half preventing us from doing. We got him in the second.”

For the Warriors, Shifrin paced the team with 21 points. Richard Williams grabbed 14 points.

“I think it’s the school and the blue-collarness that we have at this school a little bit,” Wilton High School head coach Joel Geriak said. “They don’t quit ever. Do we push them hard in practice? Yes. Do we expect them to battle for loose balls? Yes. But it’s one thing to expect that and another to follow through with everything that they do. It’s just the heart that they have.”

Wilton’s leading scorer, Eric Houska was kept silent throughout most of the game. He finished the contest with only one point in the first half and five points overall. In fact, he was unable to hit a field goal in the game.

“I can’t say enough about (Jonathan) Palmer, (Patrick) Santini and (Kyle) Foote because they held Wilton’s leading scorer to zero field goals, which is huge,” Brehm said. “Tonight I thought Houska actually kept his composure a lot better than he did in the first two games, but John is a luxury to have. It’s really rare when you get a kid that truly doesn’t care how many points he scores and just wants to shut down the other kids. He’s a special kid.”

While Palmer was playing his usual solid defense, it was the offense he sparked in the third quarter that helped the Cards get the victory. With the scored knotted at 38-38, Greenwich went on an 11-0 run, with Palmer scoring five of those points. Both Wolf and Byrd each helped Big Red on its run.

“In the quarterfinals of the FCIAC, we went zone a little bit,” Palmer said. “We only went zone for a little bit and after halftime we played man the whole time.”

Although Shouvlin had a solid outing for Wilton in the class LL second round, it was his three points with less than 11 seconds remaining in regulation from the baseline while falling down that were the biggest of the season.

“That kid just makes shots when he has to,” Geriak said. “He got there and actually had a kid in his face when he shot it. He’s a kid that comes up clutch. He can go 30-for-30 or o-for-30 and still thinks he can make the next shot. Every time we are late in the game, we want the ball the kid’s hands.”

With the victory, Greenwich improved to 23-3 on the season, while the Warriors ended its season with a 13-10 record.

Big Red advances to the class LL elite right, as they will host No. 5 seed New Britain High School Monday night at 6 p.m.

“It’s a big game and we’ve been to the elite eight before, but we’ve never been to the final four in Connecticut,” Brehm said. “The great thing is that we are home. We will get a scouting report on them and learn about them tomorrow, practice Saturday and Sunday and hopefully we get another big crowd in here for Monday’s game. It should be a lot of fun.”

 

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