A defensive-minded team, Greenwich succeeded in forcing most of its opponents out of their comfort zone during the 2020-2021 boys basketball season, using aggressive defensive play to dictate the pace of the majority of its games.
“We stressed at the beginning of the year we may struggle offensively, but as long as we were really good defensively and smothered teams we would always have a chance to win,” said Greenwich boys basketball coach Todd Trimmer, who is starting his second season at the helm. “I don’t think any team played better defense. It started to translate into wins and the team started to buy in.”
Following a slow start which included two overtime losses and a one-point defeat, the Cardinals steadily built momentum toward the end of their 2020-21 campaign and by season’s end, they found themselves in the semifinal-round of the FCIAC Tournament.
Greenwich was edged by Fairfield Warde, 46-42, in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals in a game it had chances to win in regulation and the team enters the upcoming season primed to improve upon the foundation it built last winter.
“We feel really good right now, we have a lot of young talent coming into the program,” said 6-foot-5 senior center Chason Barber, who is one of the Cardinls’ captains. “Our team is ready to build on to our success last year, when we made the playoffs. We have a shot at making a run this year.”
Indeed, strong defensive play was the Cards’ trademark last season and it also should be a key asset this winter.
“Last year, we got teams out of what they were comfortable with,” Trimmer said. “We knew we were going to treat every game like it was a grind-it-out football game. I think that’s how we’re starting out this year, though we do have more offensive firepower this year.”
Barber, who will play football at Brown University next year and senior guard James Pilc, both of whom sparked Greenwich offensively a season ago, will be relied upon once again, help lead the squad in the scoring department.
“Chason Barber was Second Team All-FCIAC and All-FCIAC defense and he had some monster games last season,” Trimmer said. “We are going to run our offense through him a little bit more.”
Pilc (6-foot) averaged 13 points per game last season while playing mostly at the point guard position. He turned in numerous impressive performances for the Cardinals during his junior season, including a 17-point effort against Fairfield Warde in the FCIAC semifinals. His turnaround baseline jumper with 3.2 seconds remaining sent the FCIAC semifinal-round matchup into overtime.
“James Pilc, he had a fantastic year for us last year,” Trimmer said. “He was our total workhorse, averaging 13 points per game and he always guarded the best guy.”
Pilc, who mostly played point guard last season, will see the bulk of his minutes at the shooting guard spot for the Cardinals this winter. Greenwich posted a record of 4-9 last season and is intent on improving their mark this year, while playing a full slate of games against its rivals. The 2020-2021 basketball season was shortened/modified due to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“We’re really confident, we have a good group of returning players from last year and new guys who improved during the offseason, so we’re feeling really good with where we stand,” said Pilc, who also plays for Greenwich’s lacrosse squad.
Included in Greenwich’s four wins last year were postseason victories against Warren Harding and St. Joseph, which entered the FCIAC Tournament as the No. 2 seed.
“That was huge for us, especially with the whole COVID thing and we had a new coaching staff – we had to adjust a lot,” Pilc said. “During the playoffs, we learned a lot and improved and we can definitely use that this year to our advantage.”
Barber shared a similar sentiment.
“It gives us a great deal of confidence,” Barber said of how Greenwich played toward the latter part of last season. “I know our record wasn’t the greatest, but we knew we could compete with every team and that showed in the playoffs when we beat St. Joe’s.”
Unlike last season, a good amount of spectators should be attending the games during the course of the season.
“The energy from the crowds that we didn’t have last year (because of COVID-19 safety protocols) will be great for our team and just the competition will be more fun,” Barber said.
Along with Barber, senior captains Andrew O’Donnell and Flynn Milledge will look to help solidify Greenwich’s frontcourt. The 6-4 O’Donnell brings speed and versatility at the forward spot. He’s a track and field star for Greenwich and will continue his running career at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I consider myself a forward, but I’m comfortable playing everywhere,” O’Donnell said. “I feel like I have that step on everyone. Being able to beat someone down the court is helpful and I think my teammates will find me if I run really fast down the court.”
Said Trimmer: “Andrew O’Donnell is a tremendous athlete, with a lot of speed. He’s a gazelle out there.”
Milledge, a 6-2 forward, fits in well with the team’s defensive philosophy.
“I’m more of a defensive guy on the court,” said Milledge, whose older brother Oliver played for Greenwich. “I’ll be out there guarding some of our opponent’s best players, so It will be fun bringing up our defense.”
“Flynn is a great defense stopper, multi-sport athlete,” Trimmer said. “He’s a great leader in all defensive pressure situations.”
Using several different zone defenses, mixed in with a man-to-man defense and a variety of presses, Greenwich plans on making it difficult for the opposition to score.
“We have so many defenses and presses that we already put in and we are going to put more in,” Milledge said. “I feel that’s the keystone of our team and how athletic we are. We are going to do some big damage on the defensive side.”
Junior Logan Galletta, who played at Brunswick School as a freshman and sophomore, begins his first season with the Cardinals. He brings speed, athleticism and experience to the point guard position. Galletta (6-foot) is coming off a standout football season for Greenwich, where he played on both sides of the ball.
“Logan has great vision and great court awareness,” Trimmer said. “He’s a very strong kid with the ability to finish really well.”
Junior Dean Brown, who saw significant minutes a year ago, brings 3-point shooting to the small forward position. Brown should be relied upon to help pace the Cards’ perimeter shooting.
Dominic DeLuca (6-5, 230), a junior, returns at power forward/center, positions he aided the squad at last winter.
“He’s learning and every day in practice he gets better,” Trimmer said of DeLuca. “He is learning how to play the post position on offense and defense.”
Sophomore Aiden Karson provides depth to the backcourt and sophomore Jonathan Brennan (6-2), a transfer from Weston, brings versatility to the guard and forward positions.
Jack Quinn, a 6-7 260-pound center, is an imposing presence in the post.
“He gets better every day,” Trimmer said of Quinn. “He will be in the regular rotation.”
Among some of Greenwich’s graduates from last season’s squad were Dan Arnold, A.J. Barber, Mason Muir and Tommy Harford, all of whom provided significant contributions.
This season’s roster also includes Ryan Maloney (junior guard), Andrew Kahn (junior), James Wailgum (junior guarad), Julian Espana (junior guard), David Brown III (senior guard) and Xavion Faison (sophomore forward).
Greenwich opens its season at Joel Barlow on Dec. 16, then visits Daniel Hand on Dec. 18 for another non-conference matchup. The Cardinals home/FCIAC opener is scheduled for Jan. 8 against Brien McMahon.
“Our defense is definitely our strength,” Trimmer said. “Our defense definitely: “In a 32-minute game, if you can play defense for 31, you are going to have a shot to win every time.”
“We improved our defense in the second half of last year and that led to more wins, so that will be one of our major strengths,” Pilc said. “We have really high expectations, the ultimate goals are FCIAC championship, state championship, so we’re working every day to achieve that.”
Added O’Donnell: “I’m really excited for this team we have this year. We have a lot of guys that a lot of people aren’t ready for, which is going to make a huge difference for us.”
Said Barber: “We have a lot of young talent and also more experience from last year and we’re ready to go.”
Categories: Greenwich High, Winter sports
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