DARIEN -- For the red-hot Greenwich High School boys basketball team, the defense never rests.
Though the Cardinals are prone to scoring droughts as they experienced Friday night against Darien, their tenacious defensive effort has been there nearly every minute of each game. Coach Bill Brehm knows it's a big reason why his Cardinals sport a perfect 12-0 mark.
Greenwich limited Darien to 15-first half points, then found its scoring touch during the fourth quarter of its workmanlike 61-49 victory over the host Blue Wave in an FCIAC matchup.
Senior guard CJ Byrd scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the second half while senior point guard Tommy Povinelli added 14 points for the Cardinals, who held another foe under 50 points.
"Our coaches always tell us to work on our defense," Byrd said. "We take a lot of pride on playing good defense."
For Darien, forward George Phillips scored 16 points and senior point guard Matt Staubi had 15, but was the focus of Greenwich's defense throughout. Staubi erupted for 36 points in the Blue Wave's win against Greenwich in last season's Tony LaVista Tournament. The Cardinals played a box-and-one, with defensive specialist Jonathan Palmer guarding Staubi, for a little bit, then mixed in an aggressive 2-3 zone.
"Staubi is extremely quick and very tough to guard," said Palmer, who usually draws the assignment of defending the opposition's top scorer. "I thought as a whole, our team played great defense. We try to hold teams under 50 points."
The game featuring two of the biggest centers in the FCIAC, as 6-foot-9 Alex Wolf of Greenwich went up against Darien's Chima Azuonwu (6-10). Wolf totaled 10 points, six of which came in the final quarter while Azuonwu had seven.
"It was big challenge guarding him, he has an NBA body," Wolf said of Azuonwu. "You have to be physical with him and make him work hard."
Trailing 28-15 at halftime, the Blue Wave (6-6) outscored the Cards 14-9 during the third quarter to close the gap. Phillips' 3-pointer brought Darien to within 35-29 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. But Byrd converted a layup off a spin move in traffic just before the buzzer, putting the visitors up by eight heading into the final quarter.
Using an aggressive 2-3 zone GHS made it difficult for Darien to get open looks and got its rhythm offensively to pull away in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals began the quarter with a 10-1 run, to seize a commanding 49-30 advantage. Wolf sparked the spurt, hitting a foul-line jumper, converting a jump hook and scoring off a dunk. The elusive Byrd also tallied six points during the pivotal stretch.
"I've been practicing my mid-range jumper lately and I'm feeling comfortable with my outside shot," said Wolf, who grabbed six rebounds.
Said Byrd: "When we play together as a team and move the ball like we did, we make each other better."
Despite finding points hard to come by, Darien stayed in it for most of the game. Read Full Article
"We knew going into the game that Greenwich had two weapons in Wolf and Byrd and a lot of good role players," said Blue Wave coach Kyle Marian, whose squad went to a box-and-one on Byrd during portions of the game. "We had to decide what we were going to try to take away from them. They are an outstanding team -- they're 12-0 for a reason.
"Offensively, we just didn't do enough. We missed too many foul shots and didn't execute down the stretch."
Greenwich took a 12-8 edge into the second quarter on consecutive baskets from Povinelli, then went the first five minutes without a point to start the second quarter. The Blue Wave managed only two points during that span however, as the Cards clamped down defensively.
"Our kids have really bought into our defensive system," Brehm said. "On defense, you have to have a very short memory and our kids play with a lot of intensity each possession, taking charges and helping each other out."
Kyle Foote made a layup off a baseball pass from Povinelli, who then nailed a 3-pointer, putting the Cardinals ahead by 13 at intermission.
"Our coaches have been emphasizing defense all season and our defensive play has really led us," Povinelli said. "Tonight, our guys did a great job off the bench too. It was a good team effort."
GREENWICH (12-0): Tom Povinelli 4 4-6 14; CJ Byrd 7 6-7 21; Alex Wolf 5 0-0 10; Leonel Hyatt 1 0-0 2; Jonathan Palmer 0 0-0 0; Griffin Golden 1 2-2 5; Patrick Santini 1 3-5 5; Kyle Foote 1 2-2 4; Matt Ellsworth 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 17-22 61.
DARIEN (6-6): Chima Azuonwu 3 1-4 7; Ames Murray 3 1-2 7; Bobby Fitzpatrick 0 2-3 2; Matt Staubi 3 7-7 15; George Phillips 6 2-3 16; Alexander Preston 1 0-0 2; Hudson Hamill 0 0-0 0; Rock Stewart 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 13-21 49.
GREENWICH 12 16 9 24--61
DARIEN 8 7 14 20--49