FAIRFIELD -- C.J. Byrd usually doesn't have the opportunity -- or feel the need -- to carry the Greenwich boys basketball team on his shoulders.
That responsibility usually falls on 6-foot-9 senior center Alex Wolf, who typically has teams scrambling to find ways to defend him by the middle of the first quarter. Usually, they don't. And Wolf ends up garnering all the accolades.
Tuesday, with Wolf in early foul trouble and struggling to find the basket, Byrd decided it was his time to shine.
And shine he did, scoring a career-high 32 points as undefeated Greenwich raced out to a 29-8 second-quarter lead before cruising to a 74-57 victory at Fairfield Warde Wednesday night.
Byrd scored 12 points in the first quarter alone, most of which came on athletic drives to the basket and a couple of old-fashioned scoop shots, giving the Cardinals an early 18-6 advantage. Byrd added nine in the second with Wolf on the bench nursing two fouls. Five of Byrd's first six points in the second frame came from the foul line, helping Greenwich out to a 39-17 halftime lead.
Byrd's effort came one night after Wolf led the Cardinals (6-0, 4-0 FCIAC) to a 66-36 victory over Staples with a double-double on Tuesday night.
"It's a luxury to have two guys who can take over a game," Greenwich coach Bill Brehm said. "Last night Wolfie had a huge night and tonight Byrd had a big night. It's a great thing to see two senior captains stepping up."
Byrd took a good feeling during pregame warmups and carried it into the first quarter, hitting every body-contorting shot he attempted. At one point, Greenwich had 12 points and Byrd accounted for eight of them. After that, Brehm was determined to get the ball in Byrd's hands and keep it there.
The only thing Byrd did all night was slap the glass on a rebound attempt, earning himself a technical foul.
"C.J. can slash and drive around anybody. He's the kind of player that you let go. You don't want to over-coach him," Brehm said. "He's got a great skill set, both offensively and defensively. But yeah, he's not the kind of guy you tell to stop shooting."
The soft-spoken Byrd, who also had seven rebounds and two assists, is usually the one looking to make a pass or a key defensive stop, the hard-working plays that don't always end up in the scorebook.
"I just go into every game trying to play my own game and let the game come to me," said Byrd, whose previous high of 27 came during this year's season-opener. "Everyone likes it when it's their turn to shine, but I get more out of it and I feel better about myself when everyone on the team is having a great night."
That ended up being the case for Wolf, who started getting more open looks at the basket after Warde (1-5, 0-4) started dedicating double-team defense to stop Byrd from going wild. Wolf ended up scoring 11 points in the second half and finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.
For Warde head coach Ryan Swaller, it was a case of pick-your-poison. And both ended up being deadly.
"I remember C.J. from last year because he had a breakout game against us," Swaller said. "I saw the player he could have been, and then he ended up getting hurt last year. So I knew what kind of player he could have been and the type of player he's become this year. It's difficult when you have a guy like Wolf down low and an inside-outside combination with Byrd driving to the hole. I think he did a great job getting to the basket, creating for himself and forcing us to double him in order to stop him."
Neither team brought its best basketball to the court, combining for 17 turnovers in the first quarter. But while Greenwich had Byrd to fall back on in the first half, the Mustangs did little to help themselves, getting out-rebounded 30-10 over the first two quarters while failing to even attempt quality shots.
The Mustangs managed just three field goals going into the final two minutes of the first half, and needed every ounce of its energy to make the final score respectable with a nice offensive push over the final two quarters.
Warde's best efforts came from sophomore guards Giacomo Brancato and Chris Smaldone, who scored 18 and 16 points, respectively, with two 3-pointers each.
"I'm very pleased with the second half," Swaller said. "But it's like we're putting pieces of games together instead of stringing 32 minutes together."
Henry Golden also had a nice night for Greenwich, scoring 13 points, including one 3-pointer, while pulling down seven rebounds. Junior Leonel Hyatt (four points) was a huge factor on the glass early on with eight first-half rebounds and one block.
Greenwich will enjoy a bye on Friday before heading into a tough week with games against Ridgefield next Tuesday and Westhill next Friday.
Greenwich 74, Warde 57
Tommy Povinelli 1 0-0 3 C.J. Byrd 13 6-10 32 Alex Wolf 6 1-2 13 Leonel Hyatt 2 0-3 4 Jonathan Palmer 0 3-4 3 Henry Golden 5 2-2 13 Kyle Foote 0 0-1 0 Patrick Santini 1 4-4 6. Totals: 28 16-26 74.
Giacomo Brancato 6 4-5 18 Mike Pehota 1 0-1 2 Terrence Walden 2 1-2 5 Nick Cotto 1 3-4 6 Brian Kerrigan 3 0-6 6 Kavon Polk 2 0-0 4 Chris Smaldone 6 2-2 16 Tom Luckner 0 0-0 0 Brandon Bisack 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 10-20 57.
GREENWICH 18 21 19 16--74
WARDE 6 11 2218--57
3-pointers: G-Povinelli, Golden; FW-Brancato, Smaldone, Cotto. Technical fouls: G-Byrd.