DANBURY -- On fire from the opening tip, the Danbury student section nearly blew the roof off the high school gymnasium when Titus James let his shot go with 7.5 seconds remaining.

James received a pass from older brother Judah James and drilled a game-winning 3-ball, snapping a tie with Warde and putting the Hatters up 56-53, which was the final score.

"When I let it go, I had confidence in myself and I hit it," Titus James said. "It was just a broken play, and I guess I was open and my brother looked for me."

With the game tied and Danbury inbounding the ball with 35 seconds to go, Tysheen McCrea held the ball and ran the clock down before passing to Judah James, who dribbled to the basket.

Faced with what would have been a difficult shot, Judah James instead kicked the ball out to Titus James, who took care of the rest by sinking his open shot and sending the fans into a frenzy.

"Coach drew the play up for a pick-and-roll if they went man, but they were in zone," Judah James said. "They brought the pressure and I kicked it. They tried to trap me. The baseline wasn't there, and I saw my brother wide open and gave it to him and he hit it."

Down 56-53, Warde inbounded the ball to Giacomo Brancato, who scored a game-high 23 points, including four 3-pointers. Under tremendous pressure, Brancato's final shot smacked off the backboard, giving Danbury a win in its home opener.

Tied 47-47 late in the fourth, Danbury scored the next four points to build a 51-47 advantage. Pierre Moudourou hit a layup, and Marcus Fox came up with a block and a steal on the same Warde possession, setting up a deuce from Tysheen McCrea.

The Hatters had a chance to build on the lead but came away with no points on a pair of 1-and-1s.

Warde took advantage of the missed free throws and closed to within 51-49 on a Brancato layup with 1:30 remaining.

The Mustangs drew even on their next possession when Brancato stole the ball while falling to the court. From a seated position, Brancato sent a bounce pass to Marcel Parsons for the game-tying layup with less than a minute left.

"They're a physical team," Warde coach Ryan Swaller said. "They've got some size down low, which gave us a little bit of trouble. But I was proud to see the fight we had throughout the whole entire game to match them almost toe-to-toe."

Danbury went back up 53-51 when McCrea converted both free throws on a 1-and-1, and Warde pulled even on a Quinn Hermann jumper, setting the stage for Titus James' game-winner.

"Obviously, both teams went on runs at times, both teams were able to make some outside shots at big times to get themselves either back in the game or extend a little bit of a lead," Swaller said.

Danbury scored the first nine points of the evening, including eight by Will Orr, but a seesaw clash ensued, and the Mustangs rallied to take a 30-29 halftime lead.

"We kind of drew up a ball screen (on the game-winner), but they stayed in the zone, so we made an aggressive play and a good kick-out and Titus hit the shot," Danbury coach Casey Bock said. "I think it's a nice team win. We've got to make sure we're focused on getting better every day so we can pull out wins like this."

jchik@newstimes.com; @jchik17

WARDE (1-1, 1-1 FCIAC)

Kavon Polk 0 0-0 0; Chris Smaldune 3 2-5 8; Giacamo Brancato 9 1-3 23 JJ Conway 6 0-0 15; Marcel Parsons 2 2-2 7; Jackson Longley 0 0-0 0; Malcom Brune 0 0-0 0; Mark Schwartz 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 5-8 53.

DANBURY (2-0, 2-0 FCIAC)

Marcus Fox 2 2-2 6; Anferny Ith 0 0-0 0; Judah James 3 0-3 6; Titus James 4 1-2 10; Tysheen McCrea 4 3-5 11; Tyren McCrea 0 0-0 0; Pierre Moudourou 3 0-0 6; Scott Nesbitt 3 1-2 9; Will Orr 3 1-1 8. Totals: 22 8-15 56.

WARDE 15 15 11 12--53

DANBURY 18 11 13 14--56

3-pointers: W--Brancato 4, Conway 3, Parsons. D--Nesbitt 2, Orr, Titus James.