During certain parts of the season, Brunswick School basketball coach Steve Juricek displayed the second-place trophy the team received following the 2022 FAA Tournament as a reminder of what their main objective was this year.
“We kept that second-place trophy in our locker room, we’ve referenced it in quite a few big games,” Juricek said following last night’s 2023 FAA Tournament final. “That always got the boys motivated.”
The Bruins remembered the emotions they felt following last season’s loss to St. Luke’s School in the tournament’s final and yesterday, nearly one year to the date of their previous championship matchup, they found themselves playing for the title again.
Yet this time, the Bruins captured what eluded them in 2022.
Top-seeded Brunswick won the FAA Tournament Championship for the first time since the 2010 season, registering an impressive 62-41 win over second-seeded Greenwich Country Day School, before a huge, spirited crowd at Dann Gymnasium.
Senior forward Wyatt Triestman and sophomore guard Ethan Long scored 16 points apiece to power the Bruins, who finished their 2022-2023 campaign undefeated in the FAA with a record of 10-0 (including the postseason).
“It feels amazing, it’s one of the best feelings you can have,” said the 6-foot-7 Triestman, who used his strength and decisive moves to the basket to score clutch points for the Bruins. “To win a championship in front of your friends, family, community and everybody you love is great. There’s no better way to finish off the season with my friends and brothers.”
Malik Samms, a senior guard and Jonathan Sigurdsson, a senior center, each added eight points for Brunswick, which held the lead throughout against its new, upstart, neighborhood rival. The Bruins (19-5 overall) and Tigers faced each other nearly two weeks ago for the No. 1 seed in the FAA Tournament and Brunswick came back, pulling out a 77-72 road victory. This time, the Bruins used a stellar defensive effort to play from in front. They entered halftime with a 27-17 advantage on GCDS, which finished the season with only two losses in the FAA – both to Brunswick.
“Offensively, we executed,” Juricek said. “We made adjustments and it was great to go into halftime with a 10-point lead. The last time we went into halftime at their place down five, it was a different type of game. We like playing with a lead.”
Sophomore 6-4 guard/forward Reggie Grodin scored 12 points, while sophomore 6-5 forward Taj Walters posted 11 points for Greenwich Country Day School (12-8), which advanced to the FAA finals by topping King School, 72-60, in the semifinals. GCDS completed only its second season as a varsity program and has quickly made its mark.
“I’m proud of these guys, they’ve been awesome,” Greenwich Country Day coach Patrick Scanlon said. “The teamwork and the chemistry has been incredible all year. We have six seniors that we’re losing, who were great character guys and terrific leaders, so we’re going to miss their leadership. We have a good young team coming back, so hopefully, this motivates them.”
A loss in the FAA Tournament’s championship game last winter was certainly a source of motivation for this season’s Bruins.
“We hadn’t won an FAA championship in a long time, but we knew this was our year to do it,” Samms said. “It’s been such an amazing journey and I’m so glad we got to finish on this note.”
Said Sigurdsson, an imposing presence in the post at 6-foot-10: “Coming off last year and how low we were after that loss, to be able to get this, it feels amazing right now.”
Brunswick, which earned a return appearance in the league tourney’s finals with a 54-43 triumph against St. Luke’s in Thursday’s semifinals, wasted little time in setting the tone of the title tilt. Samms scored on a reverse layup, then made a basket off an inbounds pass and Long swished two foul shots, putting the Bruins on top, 6-0, with 13:17 remaining in the first half. A foul shot by Triestman and two more free throws by Long, upped the Bruins’ edge to 9-0 at the 12:35 mark.
Grodin’s layup resulted in the Tigers’ first points, 3:51 into the first half. GCDS closed to within 11-6 on Grodin’s reverse layup and ensuing free throw, after he was fouled on the play. However, the Bruins opened an 18-6 lead, behind a basket in the low post by Sigurdsson, a 3-pointer from Triestman and a layup off a steal by Long.
The home team took a 27-17 lead into halftime, thanks to playing strong man-to-man defense and aggressively hitting the backboards. The Tigers are a team that scored more than 60 and 70 points in a number of their games.
“We knew they were a high-scoring team and we had to dig in and stop them on the defensive end,” Juricek said. “They got a lot of weapons, so we were trying to contain their weapons and I think we did a pretty good job of executing the game plan today.”
Indeed, open shots and looks at the basket were difficult to come by for GCDS, which also faced a 1-3-1 zone against the Bruins.
“They do a great job, they are physical and aggressive defensively,” Scanlon noted. “We just could not get a rhythm going. I don’t think we did a good job of executing and playing together for a while there. The second half, we did a little bit better job of it. But credit to them, they’re a real good defensive team, they’ve been like that since Steve’s been here.”
Still, the Tigers went into halftime knowing their deficit was manageable.
“We felt good at halftime, it was only a 10-point game,” Scanlon said. “We felt our defense was solid overall and we were hoping to get more ball movement and more easier looks. Credit to them, they did a really good job of making things difficult for us on offense.”
Brunswick padded its lead early in the second half. A basket off a strong move in the low post by Triestman, followed by a hoop in the paint by Sigurdsson, made it 31-17. Samms scored off a putback, giving the Bruins a 16-point cushion with 13:09 left to play.
“Coming out of the locker room, we talked about bringing that high intensity,” Samms said. “When we play our game, we’ll always finish on top. We knew their offenses and we knew what we had to do to stop them and that’s what we did.”
An 8-0 run, the Tigers’ best spurt of the game, cut the Bruins’ advantage to 33-25 prompting Juricek to call a timeout. Junior guard John Berbano scored off a spin move and Grodin converted a fastbreak layup following a steal to ignite the visitors’ rally.
Later in the second half, with the Bruins ahead 37-28, key shots by Long and Triestman put the Tigers in a 41-28 hole with 8:12 remaining. Sigurdsson grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, then Samms threw down a dunk off an alley-oop, giving Brunswick a 48-32 advantage with just under four minutes to play.
“Our defense helped us out and slowing down also did, the clock became our friend there,” Sigurdsson said. “We had the lead by 10 points, so we just had to slow it down and focus on using up the clock.”
“I know that the 1-3-1 that we have is kind of tough to play against, with the size that we have and the length and athleticism,” Juricek noted. “So, we went to that later in the game, because we were in foul trouble. We went to the 1-3-1 to contain and made them take a little more time off the shot clock to find their shots.”
Sophomore guard Will Graves added six points, while junior center Matty Augustine and senior forward Luke Michalik provided aggressive defensive efforts for the victors. Michalik spent some time guarding Walters, one of Greenwich Country Day’s leading scorers.
“We wanted to get out on their shooters, but then also we crashed the boards, boxed out and were just intense on defense,” Michalik said.
Triestman had a cut on his nose after taking a hard fall to the floor late in the second half. He welcomed playing in the physical duel against a rival team, which also played an aggressive man-to-man ‘D’.
“We came out to a good start and we used the shot clock as much as we could and we executed,” he said. “Toward the end, we just had fun and we did what we do. I love being part of those matchups, I don’t know, I might have a broken nose. But I love being involved in a physical game.”
Berbano scored 10 points, junior Logan O’Neill had three points, while juniors Cooper Edwards and Calder Truesdale chipped in two points apiece for GCDS (12-8). Senior Sam Sealy and junior Payton Anderson each scored three points off the bench, making 3-pointers late in the game, much to the delight of their teammates.
“That was an awesome win,” Anderson said. “We’ve been working for this since early in the season. We were talking about this every single day, this was the goal.”
The championship matchup marked the final game for Brunswick’s seniors – Triestman, Sigurdsson, Samms, Michalik, Nick Burns and Sealy.
“They lead on the court, they lead from the bench and they are the reason that we got where we were,” Juricek said of the squad’s seniors. “They keep practice intense. These guys play hard against each other in practice, so that raises our intensity.”
“The seniors were the best people,” Anderson added. “They led by example and they were role models.”
The atmosphere was electric in this matchup involving Greenwich-based teams. It was indeed, a great basketball night for the town.
“Our crowd came through big time, this is a big moment,” Michalik said. “It was beautiful, it was my final basketball game and I wanted to win for them and that’s exactly what we did. This is our first championship in 13 years – it’s a good final basketball game to have.”
Categories: Brunswick School, Greenwich Country Day School, Winter sports
Leave a Reply