New Canaan vs. Central, Feb. 15, 2016
With a winter weather warning forecast for the area Monday night, tipoff for the New Canaan-Bridgeport Central boys basketball game was changed twice, moving from 7 p.m. to 4, then ultimately to 2:30.
By the time the game ended, the Hilltoppers were probably wishing it had been cancelled altogether.
In perhaps their most impressive performance in years the Rams blew out Central 80-34 in front of a shell-shocked home crowd, unused to such domination in recent memory.
“I’ve never seen that in my time here,” New Canaan head coach Mike Evans told NewCanaanite.com. “With the last three games against all against legitimate opponents [Wilton, Danbury and Greenwich], this is the best way it could have gone.”
For New Canaan (4-13, 3-10 FCIAC) the scoring output was the highest non-OT total since March 3rd, 2008 when a great Will Hanley-led squad knocked off East Lyme 92-42 in the first round of the Class L playoffs. That team made it to the State Quarterfinals. And although this year’s Rams were eliminated from the postseason last week, Monday’s game showed just how much potential New Canaan has—especially when considering the presence and play of Tyler Sweeney.
Having emerged this season as the first bona fide New Canaan hoops star since Hanley, the junior swingman followed up a career-high 35-point performance in the Rams’ 63-53 loss to St. Joe’s last Thursday by scoring 29 against Central (0-16, 0-13 FCIAC). Sweeney was virtually unstoppable, hitting three three-pointers and scoring 27 of his 29 points in the first three quarters before exiting the game in the fourth with more than five minutes left to play.
“I think the most unbelievable thing is that he scores from all parts of the floor,” Evans said. “He can score on the break, he can score from deep and he can score from the post. He’ even developed a pull-up jumper this season which has been pretty hard to stop. You want your best player having that kind of confidence going into any game.”
“It was fun,” Sweeney said. “We haven’t had one of these in a while. We’re playing a lot looser and with more confidence.”
Lack of confidence was never an issue for the Rams on Monday as sophomore point guard Nick Crovatto (9 points) scored the first five points of the game to give New Canaan an early lead. Central was able to get as close as 11-9, but three-pointers from Sweeney and sophomore Jackson Selvala (13 points) helped the Rams to a 19-13 advantage after one quarter.
New Canaan put things away in the second quarter, holding the Hilltoppers to just two field goals, outscoring them 22-5 en route to a 41-18 halftime lead. A remarkable seven different New Canaan players—Crovatto, Sweeney, Timmy Russo (8 points), Selvala, Austin Bell (6 points) , Sam Larson (2 points) and Mike Pelli (3 points)—scored in the quarter, showcasing a newfound depth the Rams needed with senior captains Kyle Smith and Jack Havard—as well as junior James Crovatto—sidelined with injuries.
The Rams continued their torrid pace in the third, as Selvala and Sweeney combined to score the first eight points of the quarter to build a 49-18 lead. After Central’s Raquan Rilley hit a shot to make it 49-20 Sweeney reeled off the next six points to extend New Canaan’s lead to 55-20.
The Rams eventually took a 68-25 lead into the fourth quarter where they put things on cruise control. New Canaan outscored the Hilltoppers 12-9 in the quarter to hit 80 points in the win, a high-water mark that might have seemed inconceivable for New Canaan earlier this season.
“We were in the 60’s this year consistently,” Evans said. “We’re used to being in the 30’s and 40’s. Hopefully that’s behind us and defense is what we’ll have to focus on right now.”
“When you’re shooting the ball well, it makes everything else easier,” Sweeney said. “We just have to try and carry the momentum from this.”
NC - Tyler Sweeney, 29; Jackson Selvala, 13; Nick Crovatto, 9; Timmy Russo, 8
Central - Tyrese Spooner, 9; Fabiel Agramonte, 7; Raquan Rilley, 5
NC - Sweeney, 3; Bell, 2; Selvala, Maccalla, 1
Central - Agramonte, 1; R. Rilley, 1
Fouled out: None