Greenwich boys basketball coach Todd Trimmer has liked what he’s seen from his team the majority of each one of its games. Yet, in almost each one of the Cardinals’ matchups, there has been a couple of several-minute stretches, where the opposition has gained an advantage by scoring quickly.
Wednesday, such a scenario occurred again.
Visiting Westhill used mini spurts in the third and fourth quarter to build a small lead on its way to posting a 54-47 win over Greenwich in an FCIAC game. Playing their fourth game in five days, the Cardinals held a 13-7 lead following the first quarter, then trailed, 23-21, at halftime. The Vikings brought a 40-33 advantage into the fourth quarter, then maintained their edge.
“We do a lot of solid things for 25, 26, 27 minutes every night, it’s those other six, seven minutes that hurt us,” said Trimmer, who is in his first season at the helm. “We are inexperienced when it comes to playing FCIAC basketball and it shows when you get in those tight situations.”
Greenwich (1-5) dropped a tough 50-49 decision to Darien on Saturday, then lost to Ridgefield, 45-34, Tuesday in a game that saw it hold the lead during stretches of the game.
“Same thing with Ridgefield, we had them on the ropes all night, but then they were more comfortable down the stretch,” Trimmer said. “We have to learn how to win and close out games and play for 32 minutes.”
Senior guard Ben Pennella scored a game-high 17 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead Westhill. The Vikings turned the game in their favor by raising their defensive intensity, pushing the ball up the court and creating several turnovers.
“We stepped it up on the defensive end and I started rotating guys in and we were able to wear them down a little bit,” Westhill coach Howard White said.
Westhill’s offense against Greenwich’s man-to-man defense also got in synch as the game progressed.
“We started communicating, which we weren’t doing in the first quarter,” White said. “But from the second quarter on, the communication worked and that’s the main thing. To get them to communicate.”
The Cardinals got a 15-point performance from senior guard Dan Arnold and a 12-point effort from junior forward Chason Barber.
“Every game we’ve had a lead at some point in the game, we just have to stop being content with our lead and keep on pushing,” Arnold said. “We have to extend that lead, rather than letting the other team have an opportunity to come back.”
After Greenwich took a six-point lead into the second quarter, Barber scored off a putback, making it 15-7. The Vikings quickly closed the gap. Junior guard Jeyson Slade converted a layup, junior forward Aidan Lamothe scored off an offensive rebound and sophomore forward Jack McHale swished a 3-pointer, cutting the Cards’ lead to 15-14 with 6:09 left in the second quarter.
Consecutive baskets by Barber gave Greenwich a 19-16 edge with 3:25 left in the second quarter, but the Vikings ended the half with a 7-2 run to take a 23-21 into halftime. Using strong defensive play, Westhill opened a 40-31 third-quarter lead.
“We played very well defensively,” White said. “In the third quarter is when we wanted to attack and in the fourth quarter, we shut them down in key parts of the game when we needed to.”
A putback from Arnold, a jumper from junior guard James Pilc and a Barber layup pulled Greenwich to within 40-37 in the fourth quarter. After Pennella hit a short jump shot, senior forward Mason Muir scored in transition for Greenwich, making it 42-39. Key baskets by Lamothe and Anderson Graham helped Westhill gain a seven-point lead in the final two minutes. Lamothe and Graham added 11 points apiece in the win.
Pilc had nine points in the loss.
“Our defense is what keeps us in games, because we are very athletic,” Trimmer said. “We have to learn how to close games out and play for 32 minutes.”
Added Arnold: “We have to execute better and we can’t take any possessions off on defense. We have to play like every possession is the last one of the game.”