NEW CANAAN -- Classic New Canaan-Darien. Or classic Darien-New Canaan, if you prefer.
To the casual observer, Tuesday night's clash between the New Canaan and Darien boys basketball teams probably didn't look like a matchup of two teams that combined for all of three wins the previous season.
And after four seesaw quarters and an overtime, it was the Rams prevailing with a 58-50 victory to capture their fourth win in their last five games.
New Canaan's Andrew Read was instrumental in lifting his team to a victory, as the senior captain scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to shrink Darien's lead from 34-27 to 34-33. New Canaan's Claude Chandonnet then sank a pair of free throws to give the Rams their first lead of the game.
"The guys found me when I was open and I hit some good shots. We played some great defense and got some good stops," said Read, who scored a game-high 23 points. "We're cutting our turnovers down and playing some good defense. (Making the state tournament) is definitely our goal. It was our goal coming into the season."
New Canaan built its fourth quarter lead to 44-36 midway through the frame, but then it was Darien's turn to come back.
The Wave chipped away on the strength of a dunk and a 3-pointer by George Phillips, but they still trailed 48-43 after Read hit both of his free throws with 13 seconds left.
After a basket by Matt Staubi cut New Canaan's lead to 48-45, the Wave fouled Read to send him back to the foul line with 6.8 seconds left. Read missed both free throws and Staubi got the rebound.
Staubi drove down the court and launched a 3-point attempt with about 0.2 showing on the clock. Staubi's shot was true, and Darien pulled even for the first time since very early in the fourth quarter to force the game to overtime.
"From our end of it, I feel like we gave it away. We had the lead in the first quarter and we sort of took the second quarter off," Darien coach Kyle Marian said. "In the fourth quarter, we were still battling and, obviously, Matt hits that shot there to go into overtime, but we weren't able to capitalize on it. My guys play hard, but as a whole we've got to do a better job executing the game plan and hitting our shots when we have them."
Darien's Henry Baldwin scored the first two points of overtime, but the Rams went on an 10-0 run to close the game. New Canaan pulled away on back-to-back 3-pointers by Read and Erik Jager, as well as a bucket by Zach Allen to claim a 56-50 lead. Allen and Read would go on to add a free throw apiece for the 58-50 win.
"They were really upset (after giving up the game-tying shot), so we said they need to calm down and chill out and they did it," New Canaan coach Mike Evans said. "To hit those types of 3s in that environment (in overtime)... We had everything against us, including ourselves at some points."
Darien got off to a hot start in the first quarter and built a quick 10-2 lead, prompting New Canaan to take a timeout. The Rams closed to within 12-5 by quarter's end and dominated the second stanza to pull even at 18-18 at halftime.
Darien scored the first seven points of the third quarter, as Chima Azuonwu scored on his second of three dunks. The Blue Wave led 34-27 at the end of the period, setting the stage for the Rams' fourth- quarter comeback that eventually spilled into overtime.
"I missed a couple free throws that could have sealed the game, so I was pretty upset," Read said. "But we stayed tough and played really hard in overtime."
After opening their season with five consecutive losses, the Rams (4-6) are now on pace to get to the eight-win plateau, which would qualify them for the state tournament.
"We have a lot of hard games left. There are no nights off," Evans said. "(The state tournament) is a reality now, but we're going to have to earn it."
The Blue Wave (2-7) won the LaVista Tournament, but have since dropped four straight games.
"Our program has come a long way in three years and there's still a long way to go. It's Mike's first year, but he's doing a great job of building something over there," Marian said. "Me and coach Evans are both sort of chomping at the bit to get our teams there. I have no doubt that he'll be able to do that and I know that we're doing it in Darien as we speak."
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NEW CANAAN 58, DARIEN 50 (OT)
Matt Staubi 4 6-8 15, Chima Azuonwu 5 2-4 12, George Phillips, 4 0-0 10, Henry Baldwin 4 1-3 9, Ian Burgoyne 1 0-1 2, Ames Murray 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 9-16 50.
NEW CANAAN (3-6)
Records: Darien 2-7, New Canaan 4-6.
DARIEN 12 6 16 14 2 -- 50
NEW CANAAN 5 13 9 19 10 -- 58
3-pointers: D--Phillips 2, Staubi; NC--Read 5, Chadonnet 2, Jager.