Back and forth the lead went throughout Sunday’s boys basketball game between Greenwich and Darien, as the conference rivals played each other to a near standstill each quarter.
Yet in a game that featured more than a dozen lead changes, Darien took the final lead and the FCIAC matchup.
Karson Drake converted two foul shots with three seconds remaining and visiting Darien edged Greenwich, 50-49.
After Cardinals guard Dan Arnold tied the score at 49-49 by making a free throw with 30 seconds left to play, the Blue Wave took possession and looked for a last shot. Coming off a screen, Drake received the ball in the low post, squared up to the basket and was fouled with three seconds to go. He missed his first of two foul shots, but a lane violation was called on Greenwich, giving him two more shots. Drake then made one of his next two attempts, putting the Blue Wave ahead by one point.
Greenwich had a shot attempt from just past halfcourt before the buzzer sounded, but Darien held on for the win. Junior guard Miles Drake scored a team-high 17 points, 10 of which came in the opening half, while senior Amir Preston and Simeon Doll added 10 points apiece in the winning effort.
“We’re a young team, my seniors and captains are getting the younger guys ready and making sure they know what to do in situations like that,” Darien coach Charoy Bentley said. “I’ve got guys like Miles Drake and Preston, who have been with the program for several years. They’re experienced and bringing everyone along. On that final possession, we just wanted to get the best shot possible.”
The Cardinals (1-2), who defeated Stamford on the road on Saturday for its first victory of the season, were sparked by junior forward/center Chason Barber. Excelling in the low post, Barber scored a game-high 21 points, including 12 in the second half.
“Our strategy was to get it to Chason and let him go to work on the block and we did that and took advantage of it,” said Greenwich coach Todd Trimmer, who guided the Darien squad last season. “Hopefully, this is a breakout game for him.”
Besides scoring several times in the post, the 6-foot-5 Barber found success facing up to the basket then driving.
“We got their big men in foul trouble early, so they had to play a bit passive throughout the game, so I just used that opportunity I had to score on the blocks,” Barber said. “On offense, we were a little bit sloppy today, but we meshed well overall as a team today.”
Bentley said of Barber: “He’s very athletic, he’s good around the basket and he gave us trouble. We tried to contain him around the basket as best as possible, but he’s a great athlete.”
A 3-pointer from the right corner by Doll put the Blue Wave ahead, 42-39, early in the fourth quarter. Senior guard A.J. Barber swished a 3-pointer from the right side, giving the Cards a 46-44 edge at the 2:56 mark of the final quarter. After a Darien free throw, Arnold drove the length of the court and converted a left-handed layup, making it 48-45 with 1:24 to play. Doll’s layup and pair of free throws, gave Darien a 49-48 advantage with 52.7 seconds remaining. Arnold then made a foul shot to knot the score, setting up the game’s final three seconds.
“It was a great, hard-fought game,” Trimmer said. “We just didn’t make our foul shots in the fourth quarter and that was a big difference.”
The Cardinals, who shot 11-for-18 from the foul line, trailed 14-12 after the first quarter and 25-22 at halftime. The third quarter concluded in a 39-39 tie. Chason Barber tallied 10 third-quarter points for Greenwich, which received 12 points from Arnold and five apiece from senior forward Mason Muir and A.J. Barber.
“In the second half our energy was different,” Trimmer said. “We kind of dictated the pace the way we wanted to play. If we knocked down our foul shots, we could have had a seven-point lead.”
Karson Drake had five points, including the winning foul shots for the Blue Wave, who play at Stamford on Tuesday.
“Every game this season is a building game,” Bentley said. “We had a little bit of a rocky start, but we’re starting to get the job done.”
Greenwich hosts a formidable Ridgefield squad on Tuesday.
“This was one of our best games, but we could have done a better job of finishing at the free throw line and we could have played a little bit better defense, while committing less fouls,” Chason Barber said. “We are going to use this to build off of and we are going to take this into our game against Ridgefield on Tuesday.”