Column: A senior class salute
Updated 11:14 am, Thursday, March 20, 2014
Separately, they are nothing more than a collection of rare Darien natives; athletes whose handle in the winter is not measured by adeptness with a hockey stick; young men whose hoops in the driveway are meant for more than just pick-up games; varsity competitiors who have known the deep depths of failure far more often than they have enjoyed the bliss of victory.
But together, through hard work, belief and a good helping of selflessness, they constitute the unforgettable 2014 class of Blue Wave boys basketball.
Darien seniors Matt Staubi, Chima Azuonwu, George Phillips, Bobby Fitzpatrick, Ames Murray and Colin Sullivan all made history this year, leading the charge for the Blue Wave's 11-10 campaign that finished in the second round of the Class L state tournament. As it has been widely publicized, the postseason berth was Darien's first in 24 years. But the ultimate, lasting effects on the program will only become known in the years to come.
Now, two weeks ago, we brought to your attention the masterful job that Darien boys basketball coach Kyle Marian has done to revitalize the downtrodden program. Since that time, he's added to the Blue Wave's resume with a remarkable first-round upset of seventh-seeded Guilford on the road.
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Yet since he took over in 2010, Marian has made zero shots. He's claimed not a single rebound. Over the Blue Wave's 82 games played, there have been no assists tallied next to his name in the stat sheet. During his tenure, Darien boys basketball has only excelled on the court as far as its 2014 senior class could take it.
Safe to say, the six seniors took them pretty darn far.
Following three seasons that compiled a total of just 11 wins, Staubi and Co. raced out to a 5-2 start that included wins over rival New Canaan and playoff-bound Trumbull. The success, as it had never been before, came quickly. Almost easily. But, as most things that soar tend to do, the Wave's winning ways came back down.
Darien dropped six of its next seven, including close calls against Trinity Catholic and Harding. For such a senior-laden team, the Blue Wave was not utilizing its experience at the end of games to secure victories. Multiple, tough contests lay ahead, meaning the possibility of missing the postseason and failing to reach their team goal was very real.
Then, the team took care of business. Staubi poured in 29 points to lead Darien over Danbury on the road and secure the team's critical eighth victory of the season, which earned a spot in the Class L tournament. The Hatters, as many other opponents had been over the year, were more athletic. Playing at home, they also had a crowd advantage. Yet it didn't matter. Norwalk and Guilford went on to suffer the same fate against the Blue Wave, both falling at home.
And that's how this group of seniors turned things around. They ignored the history and obstacles and kept persevering until victory was theirs.
Separately, they may not have been much. But together, they accomplished something not seen in a generation.
Together, they have redefined what it means to be a part of Blue Wave basketball.