NEW CANAAN-- They say it's not how you start, but how you finish.
For New Canaan boys basketball, this 2013-14 season has been painfully full of promising starts and yet, nearly absent of favorable finishes. Senior Night was no exception.
Last Monday, the Rams (3-16, 3-14 FCIAC) dropped a heartbreaker to Trumbull (8-11, 7-10 FCIAC) in overtime by the score of 62-55 at New Canaan High School. Senior Eric Jager sunk the first and final baskets of the game, en route to collecting a team-high 18 points. He was, however, bested by Eagles Eddie McElroy and Rashard Rodriguez, who cashed in for 21 and 20 points respectively.
New Canaan led for the entire game until one minute remained in the fourth quarter, when Trumbull guard Matt Turner drove in for a layup that knotted the score at 49 apiece. Turner's basket came during a six-minute scoreless stretch for the Rams that was finally snapped on a Jager three-pointer with 1:10 to go in overtime. Soon after Jager's shot, Turner knocked down two key free throws that extended the Eagles edge to 57-52 with less than a minute left.
From there, Ram forward Claude Chandonnet missed a straightaway three-pointer, and Trumbull claimed both the rebound and the game.
"We put up a thing on the board that said `Effort, 100 percent. Execution, 90 percent,'" said New Canaan coach Mike Evans. "It was an age-old story for us. We had a bit of time there where we didn't execute, whether it was because of fatigue or pressure, and it led to our loss."
The Rams held the ball for 55 of the last 60 seconds of regulation, but failed to take back their lead when Chandonnet's lay-in against tough defense bounced out.
"What we were trying to do was get the ball to Claude in the high post," Evans said. "We wanted to get Claude to the free throw line, but it just didn't happen."
Oddly enough, New Canaan didn't take a single trip to the free throw line over the entire first half, after which it led 30-18. Jager topped all scorers with 10 points before the intermission, a number boosted by a game-opening three. The senior started his final home game alongside four classmates, two of whom were not regular starters.
"All five of them came to play," Evans said. "They came out on a 7-2 run to get us started ... Eric, Beau [Santero]and Andrew [Penchuk] have been staples of our programs for two years, emotional leaders and on-the-floor leaders when they need to be."
The Rams' hot start continued into the second quarter, as they sped out on a 15-2 run sponsored by crisp passing and a balanced scoring attack. Their largest lead hit the scoreboard with four minutes to go before the half at 24-11. Then, offensive turnovers and a crumbling interior defense began to slowly doom their chances of victory.
The five seniors, Jager, Penchuk, Santero, Max Urbahn and Jack Evans, will see their final game action this Wednesday at Fairfield-Ludlowe. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"This year they've been nothing short of accepting of what we've given them," Evans said of his graduating class. "The example they leave behind is that a lot can happen when no one cares who gets the credit."
Trumbull 62, New Canaan 55
Rashard Rodriguez 8 4-7 20 Matt Turner 3 3-4 9 Eddie McElroy 5 8-9 21 Jason Micallzzii 0 0-0 0 Billy Brown 2 4-6 8 Mike Miller 2 0-1 4 Ben McCullough 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 19-27 62.
NEW CANAAN (3-16)
Claude Chandonnet 4 0-1 9 Kyle Smith 3 4-6 10 James Crovatto 0 0-0 0 Jack Evans 0 0-0 0 Paul Hagopian 1 0-0 2 Andrew Penchuk 2 0-0 4 Eric Jager 7 0-0 18 Beau Santero 0 0-0 0 Zach Allen 4 2-2 10 Tyler Sweeney 1 0-0 2
Totals: 22 5-9 55.
TRUMBULL 9 9 17 14 13--62
NEW CANAAN 14 16 8 11 6--55
3-pointers: T-- McElroy 3 NC--Jager 4, Chandonnet