Following four road games to start its season, Greenwich’s boys basketball team finally played its home-opener when Brien McMahon came to town on Saturday, in a matchup which also happened to be the Cardinals’ first FCIAC game.
The duo of Chason Barber and James Pilc made sure the Cardinals opened FCIAC play in style before their home crowd.
Barber was a force in the low post, scoring a game-high 20 points, while Pilc thrived off the dribble, adding 14 points in Greenwich’s 58-46 win over the visiting Senators – a victory that raised the Cards’ record to 4-1 overall.
The Cardinals held a 14-11 edge after the first quarter, then entered halftime with a slim 30-25 lead, before they pulled away a bit in the third quarter.
“We started off a little slow,” said the 6-foot-5 Barber, who totaled 10 points in each half. “Once we got to the second half, we started getting the ball to the post and moving it around. Moving it to the post, I can see the floor and dish it out to my friends who hit some important 3s.”
Pilc, a senior guard, scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half, including two 3-pointers. He’s excelled at getting his effective jump shot off, off the dribble. Outscoring McMahon, 16-9 during the third quarter, Greenwich opened a 46-34 lead.
“The third quarter we started hitting our shots and we had a couple of guys come off the bench hit some big shots for us and that was pretty crucial,” Pilc said. “A lot of guys were ready to step up and hit some shots.”
Junior guard Logan Galletta had four points and was key in helping the Cards run their sets offensively, junior guard Dean Brown registered 11 points, six of which came in the opening half and junior forward Dominic DeLuca contributed four points in the winning effort.
Brien McMahon (1-3) received 12 points from junior guard Jason Miller, 10 points from sophomore guard Kyle Close and eight points from sophomore forward AJ Kidd.
Ahead 30-25 to start the third quarter, went on a 7-0 run to take a 12-point advantage. Barber keyed the spurt, scoring off a putback and a jump hook in the lane. DeLuca’s two foul shots made it 37-25 with 5:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Miller swished a 3-pointer for the Senators, but Brown made a shot from beyond the arc for the Cards, putting them up, 40-28 at the 3:36 mark of the third quarter. Barber then scored off an offensive rebound and Pilc made a layup off a steal, extending the home team’s advantage of 44-28 with 2:37 to go in the third stanza.
“We started out really slow and we’ve done that in three games,” Greenwich coach Todd Trimmer said. “We just have to figure out a way to come out of the locker room a little bit differently and that’s on me, but we’ll figure it out. I thought the third quarter we were great. We did all the hard things we need to do. Coming up with the 50/50 balls, the rebounds, we picked up our defensive intensity.”
Indeed, Greenwich which played an effective 1-3-1 defense, along with an aggressive man-to-man, played better as the game progressed.
“The third quarter kind of tilted the game a little bit and was a big difference,” Trimmer said. “But we have to play like that for four quarters. Brien McMahon is a good that that’s super well-coached. (Coach) Joe (Laprad) does an unbelievable job.”
The Cardinals maintained their double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, with Pilc and Barber ignited the team’s offense.
“Our energy was a little lacking to start the game, but in the second half we stepped it up and played better defense. It definitely feels good to win our first home game and it’s nice to start off with a win in the FCIAC.”
In the second quarter, McMahon closed to within 19-18 on a 3-pointer by junior Luis Laureno (7 points), but senior guard Andrew Kahn converted a 3-pointer, then Barber made two baskets in the post, giving the Cards some breathing room.
Kahn had three points and sophomore Jonathan Brennan added two points for the victors, who played solid defense, especially in the second half.
“We’re all aggressive and that’s the heart of our program – we all play really good defense and run transition,” Galletta said. “We kind of came out a little slow in the first half, but we got together at halftime and the third quarter we came out strong. They’re a good team, but we came out played our game and got the win. We played four non-league games, but we’re looking forward to league play and showing the FCIAC what we can do.”
The Cardinals’ guards and wing players efficiently passed the ball into the low post throughout.
“With Chason and Dom we are going to have mismatch opportunities and you have to take advantage of that,” Trimmer said. “When you are getting the ball to the post, great things happen. It allows your perimeter game to do so many things.”
Senior center Jehdi Frederique had four points, while junior Grant Matkins chipped in five points for the Senators, who will host Stamford on Tuesday. Greenwich will seek its fourth straight win when it visits Fairfield Ludlowe on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
“We have momentum right now, we’ve been having good, intense practices,” Barber said. “We have to get our bodies ready, get mentally checked into practice and get to work.”
Said Trimmer: “Every night in the FCIAC is a battle. Just the enormity of being an FCIAC game is enough – every night there is a battle and if you are not prepared that way you are going to lose, so we have to come out strong.”