New Canaan Basketball Tops Staples


By Terry Dinan

NEW CANAAN – More than once this season, the New Canaan Rams basketball team has taken a lead early in a game, only to let it slip away. Friday night’s contest against Staples seemed to follow the same script, as a 41-33 fourth quarter advantage dissipated to 41-37 in a matter of minutes.

Leave it to a freshman to write a plot twist.

A huge three-pointer by 9th Grader Tyler Sweeney gave the Rams some breathing room, propelling them to a 46-40 win over the Wreckers in front of the biggest home crowd of the season.

“That was a big shot,” said New Canaan head coach Mike Evans, who saw his team improve to 3-10 (3-8 in the FCIAC) on the season. “Tyler is confident and doesn’t know what age is. He’s very impressive.”


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“I was just thinking ‘I can’t miss this’,” said Sweeney, who – along with senior Claude Chandonnet – led New Canaan with 10 points. “It was a questionable shot, but it went in.”

As the game got underway, many people who filled the NCHS gym were probably wondering if any shots would go in, as the game was scoreless for the first 3 minutes after tipoff. The Rams would eventually score the first 6 points of the contest behind the hot shooting of Chandonnet and solid rebounding of junior Zach Allen, and led 14-3 after the end of the 1st quarter.

Staples would get right back into it after going on a 7-0 run to start the 2nd quarter to make it a 14-10 game with 6:13 left in the half. A three-pointer by junior point guard Paul Hagopian and a bucket by Chandonnet extended the Rams lead to 19-10, but senior David Katz and junior sharpshooter Ben Casparius helped the Wreckers go on an 11-2 run to close out the half, pulling even with the Rams at the intermission, 21-21.

New Canaan would come out of the break with a noticeable adjustment on defense, as they went with a 1-3-1 set.

“We only played two possessions with it,” said Evans. “So what we did was we sort of reminded them ‘guys, know who you have and know what he can and can’t do.’ So if you’re playing against a shooter, don’t leave him. If it’s a drive, don’t leave him.”

The move worked.

While Staples could only manage three field goals in the 3rd quarter, Allen put the Rams on his shoulders, scoring 7 of his 9 points on the night and coming up with a huge block on the defense end.

“Zach played great D, probably his best game yet,” said Evans. “He knows that he has one shot that we want him to take, and he’s finally taking it.”

After outscoring the Wreckers 11-8 in the 3rd, New Canaan entered the final quarter with a 32-29 lead.

Sweeney scored the first 5 New Canaan points of the quarter, and Hagopian added a steal and score to give the Rams a 39-31 lead with 6:04 left. After Chandonnet hit a jumper to make it 41-33, a basket by Staples’ Jake Melnick and two free throws by Katz pulled the Wreckers to within 4 points.

That’s when Sweeney hit the shot of the night.

Casparius hit a three-pointer to make it 44-40 with 1:10 left, but Hagopian was able to connect on a pair of free throws to seal the 46-40 win for the Rams.

“The boys played with heart at the end,” said Evans.  “There was more communication in the huddle than ever, which means they’re talking to each other and extensions of our coaching staff on the floor, which is how we want it.”

TEAM      1          2           3           4           TOT

S                  3          18          8         11         40

NC             14        7          11        14         46

NC – 3-10 (3-8 FCIAC) ; S – 3-10 (2-9 FCIAC)

Leading scorers:

S: Casparius, Katz – 15; Wiggins – 4; Esposito – 3

NC: Chandonnet, Sweeney – 10; Allen – 9; Hagopian – 7




















New Canaan's Tyler Sweeney hits a jump shot as the Rams top Staples 46-40. (Terry Dinan photo)

New Canaan’s Tyler Sweeney hits a jump shot as the Rams top Staples 46-40. (Terry Dinan photo)











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