Darien defeats West Haven in state opener
DARIEN—Trailing by six after only scoring 16 points in the first half, Darien boys basketball coach Charoy Bentley challenged his seniors to not finish their careers going out like that.
The seniors responded in a huge way, with the No. 13 Blue Wave turning up the defense, cleaning up the sloppy play and putting up 54 second-half points on the way to a 70-54 win over No. 20 West Haven in the opening round of the Class LL boys basketball tournament.
Darien will travel to face No. 4 East Hartford, which defeated No. 29 Staples 74-48, onWednesday in the second round.
Bentley said the words he chose for his team at halftime were not subtle and the players obviously responded to them.
“We know how to come back from stuff like that,” Bentley said. “We had a nice little halftime speech. We told the seniors that this may be their last game and at certain points in the second half, I had all seniors out there and they knew what to do. It started on defense, (Jack) Richter had three steals in a row that led to a few baskets. That’s what got us going, defense.”
The Blue Wave went to a 2-2-1 press in the second half and Richter got the ball away from Blue Devil ballhandlers, setting up baskets on the other end.
Senior Zak Swetye got things rolling with a couple 3-pointers, senior Alex Preston scored around the hoop and senior Theo Moore scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Swetye finished with 15 points, including four 3s, while Preston led all scorers with 21 points.
Moore said the seniors took Bentley’s words to heart and did not want one of the most successful seasons in Darien basketball history to end on its home court.
“We talked about getting focused and not turning the ball over on offense, turning it up on defense and trying to create turnovers with our full-court pressure and getting easy baskets in transition,” Moore said. “It was important for us to win this game. It has been four long years here and the seniors have put a lot of work into this organization and I am so glad it pays off in the end.”
All of Darien’s 32 fourth-quarter points came from seniors.
The Blue Devils led by six after a sloppy half of basketball for both teams. But they had few answers for Darien’s pressure in the second half, though they still led 42-38 after three quarters.
Darien outscored West Haven 32-12 in the fourth quarter.
An 11-0 Blue Wave run spanning the third and fourth quarters gave them a lead they would not relinquish, building the lead to as many as 20 in the fourth before pulling the starters with two minutes remaining.
Darien 70, West Haven 54
WEST HAVEN (11-10) Josiah Steinman 3 4-5 10; Marquel Bookert 3 1-2 10; Jaden Jones 4 2-2 10; Justin Santos 0 1-2 1; Carl Edwards 6 7-8 18; Mufee Cooper 1 0-0 2; Jose Almonte 0 2-2 2. Totals: 17 17-21 54
DARIEN (15-6) Zak Swetye 5 1-2 15; Will Rolapp 4 0-0 9; Alex Preston 7 7-8 21; Jack Tierney 1 0-0 2; Andrew Darby 1 0-0 2; Theo Moore 5 2-2 12; Jack Richter 2 0-0 5; Carter Scott 0 0-0 0; Riley Stewart 0 2-2 2; Quinn Fay 1 0-0 2; Ryan Darby 0 0-0 0; Williams Henry 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 12-14 70
WEST HAVEN 11 11 20 12—54
DARIEN 10 6 22 32--70
3-point field goals: WH—Bookert 3. D—Swetye 4, Richter, Rolapp
Fouled out: None