DARIEN -- With both teams entering Tuesday night's showdown on lengthy losing streaks, the Danbury and Darien boys basketball teams both needed a win.
And they both wanted it bad.
In a clash featuring several momentum swings, the game's final 14 points all came via the free throw, but it was the Blue Wave which managed to hold off the Hatters, picking up a 54-52 win, snapping a seven-game losing streak in the process while running Danbury's to four.
With Darien protecting its two-point lead and five seconds remaining, the Hatters inbounded from under their own basket and got the ball in the hands of CJ White, but his 3-pointer missed and Darien hung on for the win.
"Guys did some great things when they needed to do great things," Darien coach Kyle Marian said. "I put four things on the board before the game: Box out which is toughness, foul shots which is aggressiveness, layups which is focus and turnovers which is poise. I said if we can put all four things together, we're going to get a win."
The fourth quarter was especially physical, as evidenced when Matt Staubi was grabbed and knocked to the floor by a Danbury defender. A technical foul was issued and Staubi sank both free throws to extend his team's lead to 47-43.
"It's almost like revenge making both shots; it's like `what's up,'" said Staubi, who returned from an ankle injury. "It's all about pushing through, and not just me, the entire team. We look at this as if we're 1-0 in a new season, and we have five more to get to states and that's our goal."
With 30 seconds remaining, Darien's George Phillips sank a pair of free throws to boost his team's lead to 54-51. Danbury's Dannyjoel Harris scored the game's final point with seven seconds remaining to cut Darien's lead to 54-52.
"I thought we didn't play well in the first half," Danbury coach Casey Bock said. "We gave them a 10-point lead and we battled back and did a good job getting back in the game. We need to play with that intensity for 32 minutes and not just 16."
Darien's Kyle Green missed twice from the foul line with five seconds left, but the Blue Wave held on for the victory.
"Five seconds left and we have to take it the length of the court, and we got a decent look at it," Bock said.
After ending the first quarter tied 8-8, Darien went on a lengthy run to eventually increase its lead to 24-14 at halftime.
On the strength of a stellar third quarter by Harris, who dropped a dozen points in the frame en route to a game-high 22, Danbury managed to close Darien's lead to 35-34 by the end of the frame.
Danbury tied the game once at the start of the third quarter on a free throw by Harris, but a 3-pointer by Staubi put Darien on top to stay.
"We're trying to make a final push here," Marian said. "Our coaching staff has full confidence in this team, and it's their job to get it together. For us, this is a building block."
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DARIEN 54, DANBURY 52
George Phillips 2 7-8 14, Matt Staubi 2 6-8 13, Liam Naughton 4 0-0 11, Bobby Fitzpatrick 2 1-2 5, Ames Murray 2 0-0 4, Henry Baldwin 1 1-2 3, Charlie Travers 1 0-0 2, Ian Burgoyne 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 15-24 54.
Dannyjoel Harris 6 7-13 22, CJ White 4 4-6 18, Kline 1 0-0 5, Donovan Trimandilis 0 3-4 3, Marquise Marrero 1 0-0 2, Jalen McCallum 1 0-0 2. Totals: 13 14-23 52.
DANBURY 8 6 20 18 -- 52
DARIEN 8 16 11 19 -- 54
3-pointers: DAR-Staubi, Naughton, Phillips; DAN-White 2, Kline, Harris