Fourth quarter outburst pushes Darien boys basketball pass New Canaan

For the first 16 minutes of Thursday’s matchup at Darien High School, the New Canaan boys basketball team played like a team on a mission, holding the Wave to just 14 first-half points on 3-of-19 shooting (15.8%) from the floor.

Then the proverbial lid came off Darien’s hoop in the third quarter, and in the fourth, the bottom completely fell out for New Canaan.

The Blue Wave scored 17 unanswered points to open the final stanza, turning a 32-32 tie into a 49-32 lead on the way to a 56-41 win over the Rams.

“I wish we played like that all year, we might be undefeated right now.” Darien head coach Charoy Bentley said of his team’s second-half performance. “Coming in we knew it was going to be a tough game from the jump ball to the last whistle. They came out working hard and we had to match that.”

Senior Justin Jordan and juniors Will Rolapp and Ryan Darby each scored 12 points for Darien (7-9, 4-9 FCIAC). Junior Henry Williams added 10 and junior Peter Bredhal had 7 for the Wave, who moved to within one win of qualifying for the state playoffs for the third consecutive year.

New Canaan (4-12, 1-11 FCIAC) was led by junior Ben Sarda who scored all 12 of his points on three-pointers. Senior co-captain Cam Nelson had 9 points and sophomore Alex Gibbens added 6. The Rams — outrebounded by the Wave 40-15 — now have to win their remaining four games to clinch a playoff berth, something they have not done since 2009.

“We have to start playing much more physical,” New Canaan head coach Danny Melzer said. “We can’t get outrebounded by 25 and expect to win the game. In the first half we boxed out well. In the second half they turned things up physically and we didn’t respond.”

The Wave opened the game scoring the first four points of the contest on a pair of foul shots from Darby and a basket from Williams. New Canaan cut the lead to 4-3 as Sarda knocked down a three-pointer to score the Rams first points with 3:56 to go in the quarter. 30 seconds later New Canaan sophomore Ryan McAleer hit a driving layup to put New Canaan on top 5-4.

Darien retook the lead on a three from Rolapp to make it 7-5 Wave with 1:40 left in the first. After Rams junior Stephen Wronski tied things up at 7 with two foul shots, Jordan countered for Darien with a free throw to put the Wave up 8-7 as time wound down in the first.

Jordan extended the Wave lead to 10-7 in the second on a pair of foul shots before Gibbens hit a jumper in the paint, cutting it to 10-9 Wave with 5 minutes to play in the half.

Rolapp and Gibbens traded baskets to make it 12-11 Darien with 4:03 left in the second. New Canaan ended the half on a 5-2 run, thanks in large part to a three-point play by junior Jack Richardson who was fouled as he hit a layup off an inbound from Sarda and knocked down the ensuing free throw to give the Rams a 16-14 lead heading into halftime.

Things picked up considerably after the intermission as the Wave shot 6-for-7 from the floor and outscored the Rams 18-16 in a third quarter that saw five ties and 11 lead changes. Darby had the hot hand for Darien, scoring 10 of his 12 points on the night in the third. Sarda kept the Rams in the game by hitting three treys in the quarter, including one that tied the game at 32 heading into the fourth.

Things unraveled for New Canaan down the stretch as the Rams missed the front ends of two consecutive one-and-one opportunities, and followed that by missing a pair of foul shots. Meanwhile, Darien capitalized, as Bredahl hit a layup and Rolapp nailed a three to put the Wave up 37-32 with 6:50 left in the game.

Williams drilled a basket and Bredahl completed a traditional three-point play, extending the Wave lead to 42-32 with less than five minutes to go. Jordan then put the game away with a pair of baskets and a three-pointer to give Darien a 49-32 lead.

Cam Nelson finally ended the Rams’ scoring drought by hitting two free throws and a three-pointer to cut the Darien lead to 49-37 with 2:27 left on the clock. The Wave then put together another run, scoring the next eight points to go up 55-37 with 1:51 left to play.

The Rams closed out the game outscoring Darien 4-1, but it was far too little, too late for New Canaan, who dropped its third consecutive game.

The win was the fourth in a row for the Blue Wave, who seem to hitting their stride in the season’s home stretch.

“We’re taking it day-by-day,” Bentley said. “It starts in practice and we’re working on perfecting our craft. If we stick with what we’re doing, we’ll be fine.”

Darien 56, New Canaan 41

Thursday, Feb. 8, at Darien High School

New Canaan    7-9-16-9 41

Darien 8-6-18-24 56

New Canaan: Alex Gibbens 3 0-3 6, Ryan McAleer 1 0-1 2, Ben Sarda 4 0-0 12, Luke Rwambuya 2 0-0 4, Jack Richardson 1 1-1 3, Stephen Wronski 0 2-2 2, Cam Nelson 2 3-4 9, Alex Galvan 1 0-0 2, Brandon Sechan 0 1-2 1. Totals: 14 7-13 41

Darien: Justin Jordan 4 3-5 12, Henry Williams 4 2-5 10, Jack Tierney 0 1-2 1, Ryan Darby 4 4-4 12, Andrew Darby 0 0-0 0, Will Rolapp 3 4-4 12, Mitchell Pryor 1 0-0 2, Peter Bredahl 2 3-5 7. Totals: 18 17-25 56

3-point field goals: NC—Sarda 4, Nelson 2; D—Jordan, Rolapp 2

Darien’s Will Rolapp guards New Canaan’s Stephen Wronski during Thursday night’s boys basketball game at DHS. — photo by Mike Wilson/Wagawag Photography

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