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boys basketball Becker’s buzzer-beater lifts Warde

February 12, 2019

Matt Becker dribbled as fast as he could down the left side of the court, switched directions, threw a floater up in the lane over a defender with his right hand, then hoped for the best.

He and Warde’s hopes came true.

Becker’s shot hit the back of the rim and went through the hoop just as the buzzer sounded, ending Monday’s night’s marathon matchup between FCIAC basketball foes Fairfield Warde and Greenwich.

The buzzer-beater gave visiting Warde an exhilarating 68-66 double-overtime win over Greenwich in a key, late-season FCIAC game.

With the score tied at 66-66, the Cardinals had possession for more than a minute. The possession ended with a missed layup and a putback that was off the mark. Becker gathered the rebound, raced up court and made a shot the Mustangs will long remember.

“We were just trying to get a stop and I lost my man down there trying to double team, because we didn’t want to go to another overtime,” said the 6-foot-6 Becker, who scored a game-high 24 points. “We got lucky, they missed a layup, we pushed the pace and I was able to finish it. This was a big win for us, we needed that.”

Indeed it was. Entering the game, Warde held a record of 6-6 in the FCIAC and was in eighth place in the conference. Greenwich, meanwhile, was in ninth place at 6-7. Now at 7-6 in FCIAC play and 10-7 overall, the Mustangs have a tiebreaker over the Cardinals and are in the No. 8 spot in the conference with three games remaining. The Cardinals are 6-8 in the FCIAC and 9-8 overall.

“Right now, we are all fighting for the eight seed in the FCIAC, we’re all in the same striking range,” said Warde coach Ryan Swaller, whose team is one of five battling for that final berth in the FCIAC Tournament. “Get yourself in there, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Senior guard Matt Houghton scored 23 points and displayed his sensational shooting touch, converting seven 3-pointers for the victors. Junior guard Brendan McMahon added 10 points in the win.

Greenwich, which led 25-22 at halftime, received a team-high 18 points from senior center Oliver Milledge and 14 points apiece from junior guard Chris Genaro and senior forward Chris Mark. Genaro made four 3-pointers.

“They gave a great effort, I can’t ask any more of the team,” GHS coach Chris Lovermi said. “It was a great FCIAC game between two teams fighting for the playoffs. They just made one more play than we did.”

Lovermi liked the poise his squad showed on its final possession, which saw them patiently moved the ball until there were less than 10 seconds to go in the second overtime.

“We held the ball for a minute and you can’t get any better look than that, it just bounced around and came out,” Lovermi said.

The home team took a 56-53 lead when Milledge made a foul shot with 1:09 in the fourth quarter. McMahon swished a step back jumper from the baseline, bringing Warde to within 56-55 with 39.5 seconds left to play. Mark’s layup put GHS on top, 58-55 with under a minute remaining, but Houghton made a clutch 3-pointer from the left side, evening the score at 58-58 with 21 seconds to play in regulation.

Points were tough to come by in both four-minute overtime sessions. Both squads scored only three points during the first overtime and Warde held a 7-5 edge in the second overtime.

Milledge’s putback gave the Cards a 66-65 edge, before McMahon made a foul shot to knot the score again at the 1:24 mark.

Houghton’s 3-point shooting sparked the Mustangs throughout.

“I give all the credit to my teammates, they just found me when I had the slightest opening,” Houghton said. “This is a huge win on the road. Winning this game gives us the eight seed, they were the No. 9, so winning this game puts us a game up and gives us a cushion.”

Senior guard Max Steinman scored nine points, while junior forward Billy Nail had six points for Greenwich, which led 41-40 after the third quarter used a 12-0 run to seize a 46-40 advantage with 6:55 to go in the fourth quarter. Mark capped the spurt with a layup and 3-pointer.

“I don’t think we could have done anything more on our part,” Nail said. “It came down to who was going to make baskets at the end of the game. They just made a couple more plays. We’re proud of the way we played.”

Added Milledge: “We adapted well to what they were doing, which shows that we’re coming together as a team and ready to make a run at states. Every punch Warde threw, we coutered.”

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

Becker scored 13 of his 24 points after halftime, while scored 21 points during the second half and overtime.

“On the final play we just let Matt (Becker) make a play and the shot fell through, it seemed like it was up there forever,” Swaller said.

WORKING OVERTIME

Monday marked Greenwich’s second straight overtime game. The Cards defeated Bridgeport Central in OT last Friday, 82-74.

QUOTABLE

“I told our team that I saw a lot of growth, a lot of maturity and a lot of mental toughness,” Lovermi said. “Our defense was very good, we did a good job of making Becker work for his shots.”

Said Becker: “Making FCIAC’s is one of our three goals this year, so we have to keep winning.”

WARDE 68, GREENWICH 66 (2 OT)

WARDE 12 10 18 18 3 7 — 68

GREENWICH 9 16 16 17 3 5 — 66

Warde (10-7)

Jeff Seganos 1 0-0 3; Matt Becker 8 7-8 24; Brendan McMahon 5 1-2 11; Matt Houghton 8 0-0 23; Ben Steele 1 0-0 3; Jack McKenna 2 0-0 4; Joey Gulbin 0 0-0 0; Eli Feay 0 0-0 0. Totals; 25 8-10 68.

Greenwich (9-8)

Chris Genaro 5 0-0 14; Max Steinman 3 2-3 9; Dan Arnold 1 1-2 3; Chris Mark 5 2-2 14; Luis Mercado 1 0-0 2; Billy Nail 2 0-0 6; Oliver Milledge 6 6-10 18. Totals: 23 11-17 66.

3-pointers: FW — Houghton 7, Becker, Seganos, Steele; G — Genaro 4, Nail 2, Steinman.

Records: Warde 10-7, 7-6 FCIAC; Greenwich 9-8, 6-8 FCIAC.