Boys Basketball

New Canaan Uses Furious Rally To Defeat Fairfield Warde In Overtime

New Canaan’s Christian Sweeney drives to the basket against Fairfield Warde. (David Whitham)

NEW CANAAN — Jonathan Hall had been having a relatively quiet night on the basketball court.

Then overtime happened.

The 6-foot-7 senior center from New Canaan scored five straight points, capping off the effort with a resounding slam dunk in transition, getting fouled in the process and converting the and-one that followed, sparking the Rams to a 58-53 win over Fairfield Warde tonight.

The victory capped off a come-from-behind effort for the 6-2 Rams, who trailed by 15 points with three minutes left in the first half and were still down eight midway through the third quarter.

Ryan McAleer puts up a jump shot for New Canaan. (David Whitham)

“It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t X’s and O’s,” said New Canaan assistant Zach Smith, who coached the team for the absent Danny Melzer (flu). “They played harder than we did in the first half and they were tougher. We just had to grind it out. There wasn’t a magical formula.”

Early in overtime, Hall was fouled off-ball in the paint and, thanks to the double bonus, calmly sank both foul shots.

On New Canaan’s next possession, Hall found himself on the receiving end of a fast-break pass from Ryan McAleer, slamming the ball home and getting fouled to push the New Canaan lead to four points.

The ensuing foul shot made it 53-48 with 1:30 to play.

Fairfield Warde’s Justyn Davis drives to the basket. (David Whitham)

“He’s dunking in practice pretty easily and now he’s dunking in the game and he’s never going to forget that one,” Smith said. “That was an awesome play, an awesome finish. What a contribution from him.”

“Ryan made a great pass and I just picked it up and put it down,” said Hall, who scored all of his points during that stretch. “There’s nothing more to it. It was a team win.”

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Alex Gibbens led New Canaan with 21 points while McAleer added 11 and Christian Sweeney had 9. 

The Rams sank 10 3-point shots on the night as compared to just six two-point baskets.

Fairfield Warde’s Joe Gulbin goes up for a jump shot. (David Whitham)

Jordyn Davis’ 14 points led Warde, which slipped to 4-2. Ben Steele added 11 points while Joe Gulbin and Justyn Davis finished with 9 and 8 points, respectively.

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“It’s a learning experience,” Warde coach Ryan Swaller said. “It was a tale of two halves. New Canaan is a good team. We jumped out on them and they regrouped.”

The Rams led 9-7 midway through the first quarter before the Mustangs rattled off 10 straight points to end the period with a 17-9 lead.

That turned into a 20-3 surge that put the Mustangs up 27-12 with three minutes to play in the first half.

Henry Pohle puts up a floater for New Canaan. (David Whitham)

Three-pointers by Gibbens and McAleer helped New Canaan cut the lead to 10 (29-19) at halftime and the Rams limited Warde to just six points in the third quarter.

“We got it to 10 at the half and our one message was to be more physical,” Gibbens said. “They were punking us in the first half. Our coaches just told us to have confidence in ourselves.”

It was a three-point game entering the fourth quarter and McAleer tied the contest at 36-all off an offensive rebound.

New Canaan’s Alex Gibbens gets an open look. (David Whitham)

With 3:18 to play, Sweeney drained a 3-point shot to give the Rams their first lead since early in the first quarter. Gibbens followed converting both ends of a one-and-one to make it a 47-44 game in favor of the Rams.

Warde would later force overtime when Davis finished a layup with less than 15 seconds to play.

The Mustangs then stole the ball, but Justyn Davis missed a runner as he tried to draw contact with six seconds left.

“We had a chance to win it there and normally Justyn makes that,” Swaller said. “Whether he got hit there or not is up for debate.”

Fairfield Warde’s Jordyn Davis takes the ball to the basket against New Canaan’s Alex Gibbens. (David Whitham)

New Canaan was awarded a jump ball possession with 5.5 seconds left to play, but the game-winning attempt by Brandon Sechan rimmed out, sending the game to overtime and setting up Hall for his extra-time heroics.

Melzer, who led the Rams to a state championship in 2019, had been feeling ill at practice yesterday and even worse today, forcing his coaching staff to take on added duties. Smith was the head coach at Stamford until this season.

“It was different, but we have a great coaching staff all the way through,” Gibbens said. “Next man up, just like our coach says.”