Greenwich basketball advances to CIAC semis with win over New Britain

The Greenwich High School boys basketball team uses its tough defense to baffle New Britain during the CIAC class LL quarterfinal game Monday night at GHS. — Avery Belicka photo

The Greenwich High School boys basketball team uses its tough defense to baffle New Britain during the CIAC class LL quarterfinal game Monday night at GHS. — Avery Belicka photo

Playing arguably the best all-around game of the season, the No. 4 seed Greenwich High School boys basketball team upended No. 5 seeded New Britain High School Monday night in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL quarterfinals, 59-54.

“I thought it was absolutely our best team performance of the season, without a doubt,” Greenwich High School head coach Bill Brehm said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them. It’s all the kids. They’ve let us coach them, they’ve played really hard and great defense. They are doing it. We, as coaches, are kind of setting them up and getting out of the way. We are certainly going to need all that and more come Wednesday when we have to play Prep.”

Playing in front of a standing room only crowd in the GHS gym, the Cardinals had every answer for what the Golden Hurricanes had and advanced to Wednesday night’s CIAC class LL semifinal game, where Big Red will play top-seeded and undefeated Fairfield Prep at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena at 7 p.m.

“It’s the first time we’ve been to the semifinals and it feels great,” GHS senior guard CJ Byrd said. “The whole team loved the atmosphere out there and it was great for us. (New Britain) was aggressive, plays great defense and great offense as well. We knew we had to bring intensity and just stay composed for the entire game.”

Byrd, who finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, led Greenwich.

“I have to give it to my teammates because without them, I can’t do what I do,” Byrd said. “We play off the team mentality and open up opportunities for the next player. We make our next teammate better.”

Greenwich High's CJ Byrd goes up for the shot with a packed house looking on during Monday's game. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High’s CJ Byrd goes up for the shot with a packed house looking on during Monday’s game. — Avery Belicka photo

Not to be outdone was senior center Alex Wolf, as he finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. However, it was a thunderous one-handed dunk with 3:41 to play in the third that stopped a Golden Hurricanes run that cut the GHS lead to five. That was the closest New Britain would get the rest of the way.

“I got kind of lucky because I made a mistake, as I lost the ball and was walking back on defense, but when we got the steal, I had the wide-open dunk,” Wolf said. “It got the fans into it and the bench was fired up. It was a good feeling to do that.”

On addition to the Byrd and Wolf combo, junior Griffin Golden, who finished with 11 points, also paced Greenwich. Senior Jonathan Palmer was, yet again, stellar on defense, holding New Britain’s leading scorer Annuel Saint Juste to just six points. Although he scored one bucket in the game, Palmer added six points from the free throw line to finish with eight.

While senior Saint Juste was limited to only six points, Curtis Hyman couldn’t be stopped, finishing with a game-high 26 points. Fellow senior Brandon Thomas added 10 points, while senior Michael Robinson grabbed seven points.

Senior Craven Johnson rounded out the scoring for the Golden Hurricanes with five points.

“Their coach told me on the way out that we were the best defensive team we’ve seen all year, which is a huge tribute to our kids,” Brehm said. “We basically looked at a lot of film and said we are going to let them shoot three’s and if we give up anything, we will give up those. We didn’t let them drive a lot. We had a tough match-up in our zero defense, but I thought it was the way to go, and it was. Our goals were to slow the game down to stop their transition, to give up nothing up three’s and take as many charges as we could.”

While Big Red was up early, New Britain was able to sink its long distance shots. With the score 2-2, Leonel Hyatt hit a jumper and Byrd sank the top of the key three-pointer to make the score 7-2. However a bucket by Hyman and a three-pointer by Saint Juste knotted the score at 7-7 midway through the first.

Leading only 15-14 after one quarter, Greenwich exploded out of the gates in the second, going on a 9-1 run that lasted over half of the quarter. Wolf got things going with a jumper. After Saint Juste went 1-for-2 from the line, Wolf went back to work with a baby hook and a bank shot off the glass with 4:34 left in the half.

A baseline three-pointer by Golden helped Greenwich grab the 24-15 lead with 3:40 left in the second. However, the Golden Hurricanes used a 9-2 run to close out the half and only trailed Greenwich 26-24.

New Britain tied the game when they opened the third quarter with a jumper from Johnson, however Greenwich used another 9-2 run to extend the lead. Wolf scored four points in the run.

The Golden Hurricanes still were able to keep the game close, however that’s when Byrd dominated the play, connecting on fade away jumpers, reverse layups on the run and spin-around buckets .

“It’s fun to watch,” Brehm said. “He’s the kind of guy you don’t coach. You just get him in the open court and say ‘go’ because you don’t want to over-coach him. He’s come a long way since his freshman year and it’s really fun to see him.”

Getting the chance to play Fairfield Prep on Wednesday night has to be a great feeling for Big Red. With the victory against New Britain, Greenwich advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in school history.

In addition, Greenwich’s 23rd victory of the season broke the record for the most wins in a season for the GHS boys basketball program.

“It feels great right now,” Wolf said. “We just broke a school record and the atmosphere in the building was amazing. We had he whole school cheering us on and it felt like the whole town was here. Our fans have been great this year. They are so loud and get it the opposition’s heads. There were tons of people watching us play and that’s such a great feeling knowing all the hard work is paying off.”

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress