DARIEN -- Throw the records out the window, indeed.
The Darien boys basketball team, down eight points at halftime, rallied to hold off rival New Canaan 40-37 on Thursday afternoon.
The Blue Wave (10-8, 8-8) kept their hopes alive for an FCIAC berth, as New Canaan fell to 3-15 and 3-13 in FCIAC play.
Darien center Chima Azuonwu sunk the game-deciding layup and added a free throw with 37 seconds remaining to finish with a team-best 13 points.
The Blue Wave victory was not secure until Ram guard Eric Jager caught an inbounds pass at halfcourt with six seconds left and misfired on a long-range shot at the buzzer.
New Canaan's Claude Chandonnet collected a game-high 17 points, boosted by three first-half 3-pointers. The junior's efforts helped build a 10-point Ram lead in the second quarter,when Darien was held to five points through lengthy New Canaan possessions and tough defense. The Rams took a 21-13 advantage into intermission.
"It may have been the ugliest half I've seen us play," said Darien senior Matt Staubi. "We kind of had to take a step back because we were shocked ourselves. We knew that things would be different today than last night [against Norwalk, a 67-66 Blue Wave victory], which was more up and down. Today they wanted to slow us down."
After halftime, Azuonwu made three baskets as a part of a 15-4 Darien run that pulled the Blue Wave back into the game. The scoring stretch then set up a back-and-forth fourth quarter, a period that Darien has become quite comfortable in. Including the victory over New Canaan, the Blue Wave has now won three of its last four games by one possession.
"They're gutsy," said Darien coach Kyle Marian of his team. "We have six seniors that have been a part of a program that for years has just been getting stepped on, and they want to prove all that wrong. They want that challenge."
The Rams provided a few final challenges beginning at the 2:16 mark of the fourth quarter, when New Canaan's Paul Hagopian was fouled in the process of hitting a 3-pointer that tied the game at 36. Hagopian missed the ensuing free throw, but Darien quickly turned the ball over on its next possession, allowing New Canaan to race down in transition.
However, the Rams failed make a rushed layup, and the resulting rebound belonged to the Blue Wave. Upon heading back downcourt, Jager was immediately tabbed with a technical foul, which led to Staubi making one of two free throws.
"He apologized and Eric's a passionate kid," said New Canaan coach Mike Evans. "But I will take Eric's passion every day."
Chandonnet tied the game at 37, knocking down one of two free throws after getting fouled on a drive to the basket. But, moments later, Azuonwu converted an old-fashioned three-point play that gave Darien the victory.
New Canaan has lost five straight since beating Staples 46-40 win on Jan. 31. Meanwhile, the Blue Wave must win both remaining games in its regular season, against Westhill and Stamford, to qualify for the FCIAC tournament.
Darien 40, New Canaan 37
NEW CANAAN (3-15)
Claude Chandonnet 6 1-2 17 Kyle Smith 2 0-0 4 James Crovatto 0 0-0 0 Jack Evans 0 0-0 0 Paul Hagopian 1 2-3 5 Andrew Penchuk 2 1-2 5 Eric Jager 0 0-0 0 Beau Santero 0 0-0 0 Zach Allen 3 0-0 6 Tyler Sweeney 0 0-0 0
Totals: 14 4-7 37.
Chima Azuonwu 4 5-7 13 Ames Murray 3 0-1 6 Bobby Fitzpatrick 2 1-2 6 Alex Preston 0 0-1 0 Matt Staubi 2 6-7 11 Hudson Hamill 0 0-0 0 George Phillips 1 2-2 4. Totals: 12 14-20 40.
NEW CANAAN 15 6 6 10--37
DARIEN 8 5 18 9--40
3-pointers: NC--Chandonnet 4, Hagopian D--Staubi, Fitzpatrick