St. Joseph sported a record of 10-0 entering its matchup against FCIAC boys basketball foe Greenwich, but it had to put in plenty of overtime to earn win No. 11.
Unlike their previous games that were won in regulation, the Cadets had to work overtime to close out the upset-minded Cardinals – triple overtime to be exact.
Holding a double-digit second-half lead, before having a slight edge in each overtime quarter, the scene was set for Greenwich to register a memorable Senior Night victory against the top-ranked FCIAC team. Yet the Cadets held off the feisty Cardinals and held on for their 11th straight win to start the season.
Junior guard Jason James scored a game-high 26 points and junior guard Derrick Long added 13 points for St. Joseph, which posted a thrilling 66-58 triple overtime triumph over host Greenwich.
“We had to grind it out and keep playing,” St. Joseph coach Kevin Wielk said. “I knew it was going to be a tough road trip here. I know they’re a very good team and well-coached and they’ve played a lot of close games.”
Greenwich (2-6) received 17 points, including three 3-pointers from junior guard James Pilc, 14 points from senior guard Dan Arnold and 11 from senior guard A.J. Barber. The Cardinals held a 24-21 halftime lead, opened a 32-21 advantage early in the third quarter and had chances to win the game in the final seconds of regulation and the first two overtime sessions.
“That was a tough one, because we put ourselves in a position to win three times with the ball and the lead in the final 40 seconds,” Greenwich coach Todd Trimmer said. “In regulation and two overtimes we had the ball and the lead, but we made critical mistakes.”
Still, the Cardinals, who have lost three games by less than 10 points, put forth one of their best performances of the season.
“The boys played their hearts out, that’s a 10-0 team coming into our gym,” Trimmer said. “We gave them everything we had. We just have to fix up some little things.”
Senior guard/tri-captain Tommy Harford swished two foul shots, giving Greenwich a 56-55 edge with 2:41 remaining in the third overtime. Glenn Manigault, a senior guard, converted two free throws, putting the Cadets on top, 57-56 at the 1:53 mark of the third overtime session. Greenwich quickly responded in the back-and-forth game, with junior forward Chason Barber scoring off a putback, making it 58-57 with 1:33 left.
Those were the final points of the game for the Cardinals, however. Senior guard Tommy Shannon’s 3-pointer from the left corner gave the Cadets the lead for good at 60-58 with 1:05 remaining in the triple overtime. The visitors made three fastbreak layups in the closing seconds, following Greenwich missed shots and held on for the hard-fought win.
“Greenwich is much better than their record indicates, that’s for sure,” Wielk said. “They have good balance, they have big guys inside and guys that can shoot it. So I knew we were going to have to come here and grind it out, which we did a good job of doing.”
Trailing 53-51, Greenwich forced a third overtime behind Pilc, whose layup in the final minute knotted the score 53-53. In the first overtime, A.J. Barber made a 3-pointer from the left side, giving the Cards a 49-47 lead with 54 seconds to go. Behind by two points with less than 20 seconds remaining, St. Joseph tied the score at 49-49 to force a second overtime on a Shannon steal and fastbreak layup.
In the fourth quarter, Arnold’s runner in the lane put the Cardinals on top, 43-40, with just over one minute left, but Long buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key, making it 43-43 and sending the game into overtime.
“I think that’s the closest we’ve ever come to playing to our full potential,” said A.J. Barber, who converted three 3-pointers. “I’m proud of what we did today and I think we can really build off this going into the future.”
Ahead 24-21 at halftime, the Cardinals began the third quarter with an 8-0 run to put the Cadets in a 32-21 hole, thanks to baskets by A.J. Barber, Arnold and Pilc. The unbeaten Cadets pulled to within 38-36 after three quarters, with Long leading the way with five consecutive points late in the quarter.
“These guys, especially the seniors, obviously want to win every game and be undefeated,” Wielk said. “This year, it matters more because of the home court advantage in the tournament. We just want to keep it rolling in the right direction and play our best basketball at the end of the season.”
Prior to the game, Greenwich recognized its seniors: Arnold, A.J. Barber, Harford, Mason Muir and James Rinello. Muir, Barber and Harford are the team’s captains.
“It was great, we came into Senior Night with a lot of emotion,” Harford said. ” I felt grateful to be with my senior teammates and seeing my parents there. It was a great game, but we just didn’t come out with the win. Being a captain has been unique with this COVID season, but it’s been great with Mason and A.J., two great co-captains.”
Shannon had 13 points, including two timely 3-pointers and Manigault had eight points for the victors. Muir and Chason Barber chipped in four points apiece for Greenwich, which visits Fairfield Ludlowe on Wednesday.
“There were times where we put ourselves into tough situations tonight, so there a few things we have to tidy up in practice.”
Added Harford: “We are going to just keep pushing and use this as motivation. We know we can hang in with any team like St. Joe’s which came into this game 10-0. We know going into the playoffs that we can hang with anybody.”