STAMFORD—Three years of varsity basketball has readied Darien’s Alex Preston for any moment.

So, up one on Stamford High with 14 seconds left, and teammate Jack Richter shooting a free throw, neither the crowd noise nor the situation was too much for the 6-foot-8 senior.

Richter’s free throw rimmed out, and Preston skied for the rebound, was fouled and made one of two, putting the Blue Wave up by two points.

Stamford’s Tevin St. John drove toward the hoop, but his shot ended up in the hands of Preston as time expired, preserving the road win for Darien, 55-53.

“There was a lot of emotion from both teams,” said Preston, who had 15 points in the win. “Stamford really fought all game. They came in, they didn’t look at records, it was us versus them. They challenged us until the last few seconds; getting up and down, a lot of loose balls, it was about settling everybody down, taking a deep breath, and focusing on the next play.”

The win moves Darien to 7-3 on the year, and 6-1 in the FCIAC, while dropping Stamford to 3-7 and 1-4.

Despite the disparity in the standings, the competition on the floor was far closer.

Darien came out in the first half rolling, but Stamford’s Nico Laveris and St. John combined for 20 points, keeping the Knights within five, 25-20, at halftime.

“They’re our two returning players from last year that got significant minutes,” Stamford coach Zach Smith said. “They’re doing what they have to do for us; we need to get some other guys stepping up.”

The difference, especially in the second half, was the play of Jerome Atkinson. The senior guard started his night with a buzzer-beater halfcourt 3-pointer to end the first half. In the third, Atkinson hit a more conventional 3 to tie the game for the first time, at 37, and with 1:30 left in the contest his two free throws gave Stamford a 50-49 lead.

“Jerome has to do that,” Smith said of Atkinson, who finished with 17 points. “We really have kind of a big-three. (St. John and Laveris) are averaging in double figures and he’s close to that. He’s been our third scorer all year. He did well tonight, but we need to get some points from somewhere else.”

For Darien, the game was a coming out party for Jack Tierney, who scored a career-high 17 in the win, despite sitting for a large part of the third quarter with foul trouble.

“He’s a really good kid,” Darien coach Charoy Bentley said of his 6-foot-5 junior. “He works hard every day in practice and he always is asking what he needs to do better, and then he goes out there and does it.”

For the first time in Bentley’s three-year tenure, Darien looks to be in position to make a postseason run, and games like Friday’s are crucial to that type of environment.

“It’s really big,” Bentley said of the win. “It shows we’re getting better game by game. You need games like this. Down the road in playoff time you’re going to play against tough teams, and this shows that we’ve gotten better year by year, and that’s exactly what we need. We need games like this to keep us off our high horse.”

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP

DARIEN 55, STAMFORD 53

DARIEN (7-3, 6-1 FCIAC)

Zak Swetye 2 0-0 6 Jack Richter 2 1-2 6 Riley Stewart 0 0-0 0 Alex Preston 3 9-9 15 Theo Moore 2 2-2 6 Jack Tierney 7 2-4 17 Carter Scott 1 0-2 3 Andrew Darby 0 2-4 2. Totals: 17 16-23 55.

STAMFORD (3-7, 1-5 FCIAC)

Nico Laveris 5 4-4 16 Jonathon Hermosura 0 0-0 0 Jerome Atkinson 3 6-6 17 Rich Scott 2 0-0 4 Jelani Jackson 0 0-0 0 Josh Thervil 0 0-0 0 Jose Latorre 0 0-0 0 Matt Elridge 0 0-0 0 Manny Azolin 0 0-0 0 Harry Constantine 0 0-0 0 Tevin St. John 6 2-2 14 D'Angelo Malcolm 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 12-12 53.

DARIEN 16 15 6 18—55

STAMFORD 15 10 12 16—51

3-pointers: D: Zak Swetye 2, Jack Richter, Jack Tierney, Carter Scott; S—Nico Laveris 2, Jerome Atkinson 2.