GUILFORD--There's clutch, and then, there's clutch.
Ahead by only a single possession with two minutes to go, No. 26 Darien sunk 15 of its final 18 free throws to knock off No. 7 Guilford (16-5) 71-56 Monday night. Led by senior guard Matt Staubi, who poured in a game-high 32 points, the Blue Wave (11-10) claimed its first state tournament win in 24 years. Darien will now move on to take on No. 10 Avon Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
"I'm very, very proud of them," Darien coach Kyle Marian said. "It's a great thing for our community. We're looking forward to getting on the road again and trying to making this next push to do something that hasn't been done in a long time."
The Blue Wave led for the entire second half, after taking a 25-24 edge with three minutes left in the second quarter. Staubi posted 20 points prior to the intermission and was picked up by his teammates down the stretch, primarily from the foul line. Senior guard Bobby Fitzpatrick hit seven-of-eight free throws in the final 1:35, en route to a 13-point performance.
"It's one of those things where if other players, Chima, Ames, Bobby, George, don't grab those rebounds, don't set those screens or hit free throws, it doesn't open up for me," Staubi said. "But when I get going, I get going."
As the Indians continued to trap Staubi in the back-court in the final frame, four other Darien players scored to help ice the game. Azuonwu collected 11 total points and a number of critical rebounds, as did senior George Phillips. Darien's 71-point performance was only the second time all year that Guilford allowed an opponent to score more than 60 points.
"We knew they were better than their record," Guilford coach Jeff DeMaio said. "We knew they play in a tough conference. We got very accurate scouting information. Usually, we play teams in the 40s and the 50s & they had 31 at the half. They just made a lot of shots."
The teams played to an even 10-10 third quarter, highlighted by a then-game-high nine-point Darien lead. Indian guards Will Cofrances and Shaun Ross continued to attack the paint with success, but they failed to come closer than two points.
"They were a good team," Fitzpatrick said. "They kept throwing punches at us when we had the lead. But the thing was, we kept punching back."
As a team, Guilford knocked down just five of 10 free throws, missing the front end of two one-and-one opportunities in the fourth quarter. With less than one minute to go, Staubi nailed a pair of free throws following an intentional foul call to extend Darien's lead to 10 points and seal the game.
With a win at Avon on Wednesday, Darien would advance past the second round of the state tournament for the first time in more than a quarter-century.
"You do hear kids talk about it around school," Fitzpatrick said. "But we know we're here to play ball. Play ball and just get as far as we can in the tournament."
Darien 71, Guilford 56
Chima Azuonwu 5 0-1 10 Ames Murray 1 0-0 2 Bobby Fitzpatrick 2 7-8 13 Alex Preston 0 0-0 0 Matt Staubi 10 10-13 32 Hudson Hamill 1 1-2 3 George Phillips 2 7-9 11. Totals: 21 25-33 71.
Nick Rubino 1 0-0 3 Ian Robinson 0 0-0 0 Luke Dombroski 6 1-3 14 Mike Afeltra 1 0-0 3 Mark Healy 0 0-0 0 Tony Pensa 1 0-0 2 Wyatt Vilaseca 0 0-0 0 Max Ehrlich 0 0-0 0 Will Cofrances 8 1-1 21 Tyler Donlan 0 0-0 0 Chris Rogers 0 0-0 0 Shaun Ross 3 2-3 8 J.P. Barrett 2 1-3 5
Totals: 22 5-10 56.
DARIEN............................13 18 10 30--71
GUILFORD.............................8 16 10 22--56
3-pointers: D--Staubi 2, Fitzpatrick 2; G--Cofrances 4, Afeltra, Dombroski, Rubino