Central coach Barry McLeod called the victory a “miracle” given his team’s struggles, or better yet, futility, at the free-throw line.
The Hilltoppers survived a 12-for-33 performance at the stripe to hold off Greenwich, 53-45, in a game that seemed to feature as many field goals as turnovers.
“A big sigh of relief after it was over,” McLeod said.
Point guard Tyler Ancrum scored 17 points to lift the Hilltoppers, the state’s fourth-ranked team, to 14-1.
The Hilltoppers shook off a terrible start from the floor, including a six-point first quarter. Their production didn’t improve much on offense after that, as they fell behind by as many as 10 (23-13) in the second quarter.
To overcome that start, the defending FCIAC champions had to shake some early jitters.
“At first, people were kind of a little scared,” Ancrum said. “I kept telling everybody, ‘They’re just like us. They wear the same shoes as us, they play on the same court as us, they’re human. You can’t be scared of nobody.’”
The Hilltoppers also missed 13 consecutive shots to end the first quarter. They ended the game with their lowest offensive output of the season.
“We were rushing. We just needed to calm down and relax,” said forward Marcus Blackwell, who added 13 points.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the night wasn’t their ability to win ugly, but it was their dominance on the glass. They had 21 offensive rebounds, and almost all of those came with Greenwich’s 6-foot-9 center, Alex Wolf, on the floor.
“I’m playing nine guys. Most of our guys were fresh at the end. He does everything for them,” McLeod said of Wolf. “He’s a focal point of their offense.”
The Cardinals got 17 points from guard CJ Byrd and 13 from Wolf, but there were too many miscues all around. A good team can overcome errors against a bad team, but not against a team of Central’s caliber.
The Cardinals mainly saw a 2-2-1 defense in the second half. They combined to score only 21 points over the final two quarters.
“Other teams that have played us 2-2-1 we’ve kind of scored off of it,” coach Bill Brehm said. “I don’t know tonight if they were just quicker, I don’t know what the deal was.”
- The 45 points scored was Greenwich’s third-lowest total of the season. They topped Norwalk 40-38 on Jan. 23 and Ridgefield 49-45 on Jan. 14.