NEW CANAAN -- A chippy game between New Canaan and Norwalk -- including the ejection of an adult fan and the ejection of New Canaan junior Erik Jager -- went down to the wire as the Rams missed a last-second 3-point heave from half court as the Bears escaped with a 49-47 road victory.
New Canaan should not have even had that chance. Norwalk's Nick Boccanfuso, who moments earlier had made the first of two free throws with 7.3 seconds left to give the Bears a two-point lead, tossed the ball toward the rafters after receiving a pass from Luke Sweeney. Sweeney had rebounded the miss of Boccanfuso's second free throw and Norwalk could have held the ball and waited to be fouled. Boccanfuso's gaffe was nearly costly, as New Canaan's Henry Lavieri came away with the loose ball. But his potential game-winning shot from midcourt hit the backboard and fell harmlessly to the floor.
Norwalk ran its record to 11-4, 9-4 in the FCIAC while New Canaan dropped to 5-8, 5-6.
"It's a big win on the road," Boccanfuso said.
Boccanfuso was at the center of many of the game's turning points, including the most controversial. With 5:14 left in the fourth quarter -- and Norwalk ahead 43-35 -- he and Jager got tangled on a loose ball. Jager appeared to jam his finger on the play, and when Boccanfuso didn't step clear of the injured player, Jager (10 points) threw a frustrated elbow and was subsequently ejected. Earlier a fan had been ejected for cursing at the officials.
"That game was out of control since the second quarter and (the referees) let it bubble till the fourth quarter, and that's why things escalated and that's why things happened," New Canaan coach Mike Evans said. "And it's unacceptable. They're supposed to control the game, control the personnel. I'm asking them the whole game. I'm telling them about feuds going on, I'm telling my guys to calm down. The referees let it escalate. Now that's no excuse for our lack of composure. It's no excuse for the fan's composure, but it could have been stopped earlier."
Jager's ejection seemed to spark the Rams, who trailed by eight points at the time but eventually drew to within a point.
"We created momentum for ourselves in an adverse situation," Evans said.
New Canaan led 11-9 after the first quarter, as Norwalk struggled early from the field against the Rams' zone defense.
"The shots weren't dropping, but we just kept going to the basket and just trying to get as many rebounds as possible," Boccanfuso said.
"He's a zone killer. Him and Roy (Kane Jr.) are peanut butter and jelly. They play with each other so well," Keyes said. "And you could see, I think Roy struggled a little tonight without Saeed. Saeed opens up so much for Roy. It's really important that Saeed gets healthy and gets back."
Kane, who averages nearly 20 points per game, managed only two field goals on the night and finished with 11 points. With Soulemane out, 6-6 senior Sean Butler logged important minutes for Norwalk. He scored four points and, more importantly played stout defense against Zach Allen (7 points).
"He's been a kid who's been itching to play a lot," Keyes said. "And because of illness he got a good opportunity tonight and he stepped up and played great defense on (Zack Allen)."
New Canaan led 17-11 after Jager hit a 3-pointer in the middle of the second quarter. But Norwalk then went on a 13-0 run, including five straight points from Boccanfuso (team-high 12 points). Norwalk led 24-19 at the half and pushed its lead to 8 points when guard Jeremy Linton (11 points) opened the scoring in the second half with a 3-pointer.
Norwalk seemed on the verge of pulling away, but New Canaan hung around, led by senior guard Andrew Read (team-high 18 points).
"We adjusted to how they were attacking our zone and I think that's why they couldn't finish us," Evans said.
Norwalk led 36-33 after three quarters. Read narrowed the gap to a point on the first scoring play of the fourth quarter when he took a beautiful back-door pass from Allen and scored on a layup. But Norwalk rattled off the next 7 points and led by 43-35 when Boccanfuso and Jager went at it.
Following Jager's ejection, Kane made one of two free throws on the penalty and pushed the lead to 9 points -- the largest margin of the game. But Read almost single-handedly kept New Canaan in the game, scoring 7 points down the stretch. It wasn't enough, though, as Kane and Boccanfuso combined to go 5-6 on free throws in the closing minutes.
Norwalk 49, New Canaan 47
NORWALK (11-4, 9-4 FCIAC )
NEW CANAAN (5-9, 5-7 FCIAC )
Beau Santero 0 3-4 3 Alex Curto 1 0-0 2 Paul Hagopian 0 0-0 0 Andrew Read 5 6-6 18 Chris Dewaele 2 0-0 4 Matt Swift 0 0-0 0 Henry Lavieri 1 0-0 3 Erik Jager 4 0-0 10 Zack Allen 3 1-4 7. Totals: 16 10-14 47.
NORWALK 9 15 12 13 -- 49
NEW CANAAN 11 8 14 14 -- 47
3-pointers: Nor -- Linton 3, Dear, Boccanfuso. NC -- Read 2, Jager 2, Lavieri.
Fouled out: None.