Regardless of the sport or the circumstance, when Darien and New Canaan face each other, the intensity level rises several orders of magnitude. And, for two struggling teams, Tuesday night's boys basketball matchup at Darien High School exuded a playoff atmosphere.

Coming into the game both the Rams and the Blue Wave owned a 1-6 overall record, so both team were chomping at the bit to turn things around. In short, this game mattered.

The game did not disappoint the large crowd that turned out. While New Canaan controlled much of the game, and the lead went back and forth several times, and the Wave rode a late-game surge to seal a 60-56 victory.

"Everyone talks about the Darien-New Canaan rivalry," Darien coach Kyle Marian said. "In my world, though, it's not a rivalry until you beat somebody. Now that we've beat them, we can call it a rivalry."

In fact, Darien's victory was a long-time coming. The Blue Wave boys basketball team hadn't beaten New Canaan in a regular season game since Feb. 3, 2006.

"They made us earn this victory," Darien captain Matt Lee said. "They fought back, and that's what good teams do. They were great from the line, they were a great shooting team and they had a great post player in [Nick] DePuy."

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From the opening tipoff, Darien came out strong with junior Liam Naughton showing his velvet touch at the perimeter by draining two treys in a row to put the Wave up by six. New Canaan's sophomore guard Will Burger added two three-pointers of his own to get the Rams in gear, but Darien managed to build up a comfortable 19-13 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter was a different story. New Canaan, finally able to control turnovers and to penetrate Darien's defense, managed to outscore the Wave 20-9 in that frame. The Rams went into the half with a slim 33-28 cushion.

During the first half, the Wave went 7-for-11 from the line.

Both teams tallied 14 points in the third period, but Darien pulled ahead decisively in the fourth, boxing out the Rams on defense and outscoring New Canaan 18-9.

Naughton led his team's scoring with 18 points, including three treys, followed by sophomore George Phillips who went six-for-six from the line and put up a total of 14 points.

Burger was the high scorer of the game with 19 points, which included four treys. The Rams' other double-digit scorers were DePuy with 14 points and junior guard Andrew Read with 12.

DePuy had some foul trouble, and after being called for four fouls, sat out for five minutes.

"We had a game plan we wanted to keep their bigs off the board," Marian said. "Nick DePuy could be a real presence out there, so we wanted to nullify that. Once Will Burger started getting hot in the first and second quarter, we wanted to shut that down. We had a game plan that we were going to play multiple defenses to make sure that they were never in a tempo. If we do the little things right, the big things come easy."

DePuy was understandably somber after the game.

"You've got to have heart in games like these; you can't waste a minute," he said. "It went back and forth and back and forth, and we had it. A couple times we could have taken it away from them. Now we have to put our nose to the grindstone, put this game behind us, and work hard for the next game."

New Canaan head coach Michael Halley agreed with DePuy's sentiment.

"Our team has to keep fighting and learn to win these games," Halley said. "I also saw some good things. We got off to a shaky start, but we had control pretty much of the whole game. We had some tough calls; we need to be a little stronger with the ball. I thought our bench played extremely well, and I told them that they will be rewarded for that."

In talking about DePuy coming out, Halley said, "Our big guy had foul trouble, so we had to sit him down. That gave them a boost, and hurt us on the boards. It's a great rivalry, their fans are real good and I wish them luck in the future."