The No. 19 seeded Daniel Hand Tigers boys’ basketball defeated No. 14 seeded Darien 46-43 in overtime in the first round of the Division III state tournament on Monday night in Darien.
“It was wild,” said Hand head coach Jimmy Economopoulos. “That was the game we were hoping to play (low scoring). We have our length and our size so we try to play good defense and we were able to contain them tonight.”
The Blue Wave season comes to a close with a record of 10-11.
“It’s hard to win games if you can’t put the ball in the basket,” said Darien head coach Charoy Bentley. “Hand is a great team, they play hard, they hustle, they got rebounds, and they made the baskets. We just didn’t.”
Darien got out to a quick start. After Hand took a 2-0 lead, Justin Jordan connected on a three-pointer and Will Rolapp hit two free throws to give the Blue Wave a 5-2 lead with 6:20 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers then went on an 8-0 run a Graeme McGivern and Jeremy Long hit back-to-back three pointers and Matthew Maxwell made a layup with 5:16 left in the quarter. Hand would push their lead to eight, 15-7, with 2:46 left in the first quarter. That would be the largest lead of the game for either team.
At the end of one quarter, Hand led Darien 18-11.
The second quarter was a lot of back and forth. Jack Tierney opened the quarter with a three pointer to pull the Blue Wave within four, 18-14, 42 seconds into the frame. With Hand up 20-15 and 6:46 left in the quarter, Luke Brucher would make one of two free throws and Tyler Boris would convert a layup to put the Tigers back up by seven, 23-15 with 2:46 left before halftime.
Hand held a 25-18 lead with 1:48 in the half before two Jack Tierney layups cut the deficit to three, 25-22. The Tigers closed the quarter with a bang as Long connected on a three-pointer with two seconds left to give Hand a 28-22 at the break.
Darien opened the third quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 32-28 lead with 5:47 left in the quarter. Jordan drained two three-pointers in a row and Ryan Darby and Rolapp each followed up with a layup.
“We came out and hit back-to-back three’s, got another stop and got another layup,” said Bentley. “You don’t have to say anything to him (Jordan). He’s going to go out there any play hard. I love the kid to death,”
Hand then went on a 7-0 run of their own. Flynn Driscoll’s layup with 4:35 left in the quarter snapped the Blue Wave run. McGivern’s three-pointer with 3:40 left in the third would give the Tigers the lead back at 33-32. The run was capped by Brucher’s layup with 2:54 left.
“The game of basketball is a game of runs. Whoever has the most runs is most likely going to win the game,” said Bentley.
Darien’s Peter Bredahl knocked down a three-pointer as time expired in the quarter to snap the Hand run and tie the game at 35.
“We knew they were going to go on a run. We just had to prepare ourselves. We said, ‘how are we going to respond to that?’” said Economopoulos.
The fourth quarter saw very minimal scoring. The teams combined to score eight points in the frame. The first scoring of the quarter came with 4:38 left in the fourth on a layup by Boris. Jordan then connected on a jumper and a layup to give Darien a 39-37 lead with 3:09 left. McGivern’s layup tied the game at 39 with two minutes left in the quarter.
“Communication is a big part of it (playing defense). If we don’t communicate then there is no point in going out there,” said McGivern. “If we communicate, then everybody is in the right position.”
Neither team would score for the remainder of the quarter. The game would go to overtime. Darien had an opportunity to win at the buzzer but a three-pointer was off the mark.
“Towards the end of the game we kind of boxed-and-one’d on Jordan to take him out of the game. He really hurt us in the second half,” said Economopoulos.
In the extra session, Boris gave Hand a 41-39 lead with 3:44 left. A floater by Jordan tied the game at 41 with 3:26 remaining. McGivern’s three-pointer gave Hand the lead for good with 3:00 left. Two Tierney free-throws for the Blue Wave cut the Hand lead one, 44-43 with 1:31 left.
“Momentum was on our side (after the three-pointer),” said McGivern.
McGivern’s put-back with 44 seconds left gave The Tigers a three-point lead.
Darien would have a chance to tie but a three-pointer was short.
“We had a lot of great leaders out there. That senior class is something special. The junior class is special too,” said Bentley. “This was a great group who played well together. On and off the court, this is probably one of the best groups I’ve had.”
Hand moves on to the second round of the state tournament where they will face No. 3 Prince Tech on Wednesday.
“We have a tough task on Wednesday. They are one of the most talented teams in the state,” said Economopoulos. “We definitely have our hands full but if we can play together and defend like we did tonight, we are definitely going to give ourselves a shot.”
CIAC Div. III First Round – Hand 49, Darien 46 (OT)
Hand 18-10-7-4-7 49
Darien 11-11-13-4-4 46
Daniel Hand: Matthew Maxwell 2 0-0 4, Kijana Richmond 0 0-4 0, Ethan Haberman 1 0-0 2, Tyler Boris 4 0-0 8, Luke Brucher 2 1-2 5, Jeremy Long 2 0-1 6, Flynn Driscoll 1 1-2 3, Graeme McGivern 7 0-0 18. Totals 19 2-9 46
Darien: Justin Jordan 6 0-0 15, Will Rolapp 1 2-2 4, Peter Bredahl 1 1-2 4, Mitch Pryor 0 0-0 0, Henry Williams 1 0-0 3, Jack Tierney 4 2-2 11, Ryan Darby 2 0-0 4, Andrew Darby 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 5-6 43
3-pointers: Hand – McGivern 3, Long 2; Darien – Jordan 3, Bredahl, Williams, Tierney