Staples entered Friday night’s game against FCIAC boys basketball foe Greenwich undefeated through its first six matchups and coach Dave Goldshore’s team showed why they have an unblemished record almost one month into the season.
Playing aggressive defense, showing plenty of hustle and efficiently executing their offensive sets, with senior center Chris Zajac pacing the way, the Wreckers built a double-digit first-quarter lead and never looked back.
Zajac scored a game-high 20 points, registering 10 in each half for Staples in its decisive 56-38 win over Greenwich, before a big, enthusiastic crowd at Greenwich High School.
The Wreckers, who ran their record to 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the FCIAC, held a 17-4 lead following the first quarter, took a 26-14 advantage into halftime and were in front, 47-22, entering the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-8 Zajac was complemented offensively by senior guard Cody Sale, who scored 16 points, 11 of which came during the second half.
Staples played mainly man-to-man defense, limiting Greenwich mostly to one shot at the basket by effectively crashing the defensive backboards. The visitors went into the game off a 68-67 overtime victory against New Canaan on Tuesday.
“We worked really hard the past two days on the defensive side of the ball,” said Goldshore, who spent the previous five seasons as a varsity assistant coach at the school. “I don’t think we did a great job on Tuesday night against New Canaan defensively, we gave up 67 points. We did a great job tonight. We took a lot of pride in defending and that’s been my mantra since I’ve worked with the staff.”
Greenwich, which has a record of 4-2, had its four game-winning streak end. Junior 6-7 forward Xavion Faison scored 14 points for the Cardinals, who had to move the ball a lot to get open shots against the Wreckers’ defense. When they did get good looks at the basket, the Cardinals didn’t convert many of their shots.
“We couldn’t get anything to fall,” Greenwich coach Todd Trimmere said. “When we were getting to the basket and attacking the basket, everything was short-armed. We were hesitant and couldn’t knock down our shots. They outhustled us and we did a lot of dribbling without a purpose, which we usually don’t do.”
Positioned deep in the low post, Zajac banked in a turnaround jumper, then Sale swished a 3-pointer, giving the Wreckers their biggest lead at 47-22 after three quarters of action. The Cards’ best moments on offense came in the fourth quarter, but by then they much too big of a whole to dig out of.
Sophomore guard Matthew Maloney scored seven points with one 3-pointer, while junior point guard Aidan Karson contributed six points for Greenwich, which was victorious against Fairfield Ludlowe in its home-opener on Tuesday.
“When we moved the ball and we did good things, we had a lot of open looks,” Trimmer said. “We’re 4-2 and we’re very inexperienced, we don’t have a ton of FCIAC experience and we have a lot of work to do.”
Freshman Sam Clachko added 10 points for the Wreckers, who displayed patience and solid ball movement throughout this FCIAC matchup.
Zajac was a matchup problem for the Cardinals. He flourished in the low post and on the perimeter for the Wrecker, who ran their offense through him.
“He’s smart, he’s big, tough and skilled,” Goldshore said of Zajac. “But what I’m impressed so much by him is his basketball IQ. His basketball intelligence has gone through the roof these last 12 months.
Zajac shot 8 of 10 from the foul line for Staples, which received five points from senior Gavin Rothenberg. The Cards got five points off the bench from junior center Elliot Staple.
“It was a night where we got outplayed, quite frankly,” Trimmer said. “Against a team like that, when they get the lead, they know what to do, they’re veteran club. They move the ball really well and they do a good job offensively.”
As for Staples’ perfect start to the season?
“It’s a dream come true,” Goldshore said. “But we’re taking one game at a time and it’s onto Danbury Tuesday night.”
Greenwich plays three road games next week, starting with a 7 p.m. contest at Norwalk on Tuesday. They will then visit Bridgeport Central on Thursday, before traveling to Hamden on Saturday.
Faison made two 3-pointers, while junior guard Connor Parkes finished with four points for GHS.