Allen's layup paves the way to New Canaan's 1-point win over McMahon
NEW CANAAN -- With only three combined wins between the New Canaan and Brien McMahon boys basketball teams, their meeting at New Canaan High School on Friday night was approaching "must win" territory for both squads.
Zach Allen's layup with under a minute remaining gave New Canaan its first lead since the second quarter and held up as the game-winner in his team's 52-51 victory, greatly improving the Rams' chances of eventually hitting the eight-win plateau and making it to the state tournament.
Allen got his team the win despite playing under the weather.
"Zach Allen was definitely ill, but he kept calling for the ball," New Canaan coach Mike Evans said. "A lesson learned for me is that when these guys want to execute, they can. If you look at scores around the league, no one's beating up anybody. If we're going to be in these games, we have to turn it on all the time."
After trailing by as many as eight points in the third quarter and playing from behind for virtually the entire fourth quarter, the Rams closed to within a single point after Claude Chandonnet sank two free throws with just over a minute remaining.
With 50 seconds left and his team trailing 51-50, Allen wanted the ball. The sophomore center sank his layup for the winning points.
"I saw (Erik) Jager and he just made a great drive, and I was just trying to fill the open spot in the lane. He made a great pass and I was able to get it up there," Allen said. "We're trying to make states and we want to make a run there and make sure people know who we are."
With 7.8 seconds remaining, the Senators called timeout to set up one last chance to wrestle the game away from the Rams.
McMahon coach Ken Dustin drew up a play to get the ball into the hands of Larry McKinney, who scored a team-high 18 points. McKinney drove to the net and got a decent look, but his layup attempt was rebounded by New Canaan as time expired.
"He was able to get by him the entire day. We had a pretty good look," Dustin said. "I thought we played well tonight. It's another tough one."
New Canaan led 17-15 after an opening quarter that featured seven lead changes. The Rams also led for the majority of the second, but McKinney drilled a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send the Senators into halftime with a 29-27 lead. McMahon would not trail again until the game's final minute.
"It's not easy playing with a four- or five-point lead," Dustin said. "You have to balance whether or not you attack, whether or not you pull it out, and we still have to be able to convert on our shots."
At first glance, three wins in four games may not appear to be much more than a modest streak of solid play, but for the Rams, which won only a single game last year, the small run has been very gratifying. The run even includes a win over then 6-0 Bassick, last season's FCIAC champions.
"Last year was a disaster. Like coach said, these seniors have been through three years of hell, and they don't deserve this," Allen said. "Us sophomores and juniors agree, and we want to make this season the best. We're tired of everybody saying how New Canaan is an easy game and it's a night off for FCIAC teams."
Although he was happy to see his team gut out a tight win on its home court, Evans seemed to believe that his Rams may have made it harder on themselves than they needed to.
"(McMahon) came here to win, and we did not come here to win. Their mentality was `I wonder what's going to happen tonight,' and they need to determine that," Evans said. "We didn't do that until the fourth quarter when it got close."
The Rams will get their shot to make it four-for-five when they play host to Darien on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Senators will look to pick up win No. 2 on Tuesday at 7 p.m. when Greenwich comes to town.
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NEW CANAAN 52, MCMAHON 51
Larry McKinney 6 4-8 18, Andrew Rivera 3 0-0 8, Tim Hinton 2 3-4 7, Kyle Jordan 3 0-2 6, Andy Mitchell 1 2-2 4, Allen Lenard 2 0-0 4, Tyre Holman 1 0-0 2, Matt Downey 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 9-16 51.
NEW CANAAN (3-6)
Zach Allen 9 2-6 20, Claude Chandonnet 2 8-8 12, Andrew Read 3 2-5 10, Erik Jager 1 0-1 5, Matt Swift 1 0-2 2, Chris DeWaele 1 0-0 2, Andrew Penchuck 0 1-2 1. Totals: 18 13-23 52.
MCMAHON 15 14 12 10 -- 51
NEW CANAAN 17 10 10 15 -- 52
3-pointers: M--McKinney 2, Rivera 2; NC--Read 2, Jager.