STAMFORD — Danny Melzer is betting you can’t name any of the players on his Stamford High School boys basketball team not named Jay DeVito.
He is probably right.
“They don’t get any love, they don’t get any credit, a lot of people don’t even know their names,” Melzer said following Monday’s 46-38 win over Westhill, giving the Black Knights their first city title since 2011. “But they don’t care. They go out there and do the dirty work every single night. I love their effort, I love their heart and they are a really fun team to coach.”
It isn’t always pretty — beautiful wins are rare this winter in the FCIAC, in case you haven’t noticed — but Stamford keeps finding ways to end up with more points than their opponents most every night. The Black Knights have done so 10 of 13 times so far, and their 7-2 conference mark would make them the third seed if the playoffs started tomorrow.
Not bad for a team that got nary a word of hype in the preseason and not much more since.
“These kids have heart,” Melzer said. “They listen, they come and work every day. When you have a bunch of kids who buy in, work that hard and are as unselfish as they are, good things happen.”
It may be hard for Melzer to get marquee status for his other players, but that is not the case with DeVito, who finished with 28 points and found himself down the stretch playing a game within the game against Westhill star Tyrell Alexander, even guarding him despite the size difference.
“I was just trying to get the ball out of his hands,” DeVito said. “He’s much bigger than me but I was up for the challenge.”
Stamford actually trailed just once in the game, at 14-12 on a 3-point play by Alexander, who finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds and tried to will the Vikings to a much-needed win.
DeVito helped break the game open during a four minute stretch that started just before halftime. The Black Knights had been held without a point for 3 1/2 minutes when he scored on a baseline drive for a 27-20 lead.
Those were the first of 10 straight points he put up for Stamford, the last four coming after he was fouled while making a 3-point shot. The free throw, after Westhill had closed within a basket, helped open up a 40-30 lead midway through the third quarter, the biggest of the night.
“He played like an All-FCIAC player,” Melzer said. “In big games, All-FCIAC players step up and he did tonight. He absolutely carried us.”
Alexander did the same for Westhill, which fell to 7-6 overall, 4-5 in the FCIAC and is battling to get the chance to defend its FCIAC title. Alexander was monstrous on the offensive glass, getting second-chance points and hitting a runner that narrowed the Black Knights’ lead to 40-36 with 2:26 remaining.
“Tyrell is a tough cover,” Melzer said. “Our game plan was just to make sure he doesn’t get offensive rebounds. In the first half we did a great job of that and in the second half it felt like he got every single one.”
Stamford scored 10 of the game’s final 12 points to secure an important victory; only one of its final seven opponents is not in contention for an FCIAC playoff spot.
“I never won city championship so I wanted this one really bad,” DeVito said. “Because the crowd, everyone is here, everyone’s into the basketball games always.”
Asked to account for Stamford’s success, DeVito added, “We’re just a bunch of guys that work hard in practice every single day and it shows in the games.”
Jay DeVito. Nico Laveris. Yan Carlos Marte. Steffan Harding. Nii Pobee.
No-names. No love. Just wins.
It has a nice ring to it.