The more the Staples fans harassed him, the more Greenwich guard Alex McMurray wanted to silence them.
McMurray and the Cardinals did just that, beating the Wreckers 55-43 to keep their FCIAC playoff hopes alive with three games to play in the regular season.
Getting the win over rival Staples in front of a large contingent of Wreckers' fans who traveled down I-95 to make themselves heard on Greenwich's home court was almost as satisfying to McMurray as the playoff implications the game carried.
"It feels great. It (stinks) that we lost to them two years in a row in football and that is what the crowd was saying all game to me but we kept them quiet by winning by 12," McMurray said. "They were screaming at us and that just fuels my energy. I love when other crowds try to get into my head. I feel like some guys on our team were having some doubts but after this game, there is no more doubt. We are getting into FCIACs."
McMurray was the emotional leader on the court but it was CJ Byrd and Alex Wolf that led the charge offensively for Greenwich (9-8 8-7 FCIAC), each scoring 19 points.
It was the 6-foot-9 Wolf's first game back after a missing two games due to a coach's decision and when he entered in the second quarter, the dynamic of the game changed as suddenly the Wreckers had to contend with formidable post player.
With Wolf out for the first quarter, it was Byrd who stepped up, scoring nine first quarter points to keep his team close.
Greenwich Coach Bill Brehm has been pleased with the progress Byrd has made this season.
"He had a great game and in my opinion is one of the top five players in the league," Brehm said. "I think he is fully back after breaking his hand. If CJ plays defense, he plays great the whole game. He is such a scorer that he wants to score but we tell him `play the defense and your points are going to come' and he is buying into that."
Wolf's presence was a factor, but Greenwich switching to a 2-3 zone midway through the second quarter threw Staples out of rhythm and fueled a 10-2 Greenwich run to make it 26-22 Cardinals at halftime.
Greenwich has only used the 2-3 zone a few times this season but each time it has proven effective, in part due to the experience of the Cardinals players, according to Brehm.
"It's huge because sometimes with high school kids you don't want to do something they haven't been doing," Brehm said. "It is a real asset to be able to do that. We have seven seniors on the team and that is a big part of it because they have been around for a while and they know how to do that."
Staples (10-7, 9-6 FCIAC) coach Colin Devine thought the zone was disruptive to his shooters, but credited his defense with keeping the game close after his shooters went cold.
"You have to give Greenwich credit, they played a great zone tonight," Devine said. "They are big and long and have Wolf in the middle and McMurray up top and they gave us trouble. I thought our defense kept us in the game and a couple loose balls and if a few shots fall we are right there."
Greenwich led 41-35 after three quarters and Staples got within 43-37 but Greenwich held the Wreckers to just two field goals in the fourth and sewed up the important FCIAC win.
The Wreckers came in as the No. 7 team in the FCIAC with Greenwich tied for ninth with idle Bassick and Ludlowe just a half game behind Wilton in the No. 8 spot.
Wilton lost to Trinity Tuesday, which means Greenwich faces Bassick in Bridgeport Thursday night in a game that will go a long way to determining the final FCIAC playoff team.
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Greenwich 55, Staples 43
STAPLES (10-7, 9-6)
James Frusciante 4 3-3 12; Jake Melnick 1 0-0 2; Peter Rankowitz 3 3-4 9; Ross Whelan 4 0-0 10; Darryle Wiggins 1 0-0 2; Nick Esposito 2 4-4 8; David Katz 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 10-11 43
GREENWICH (9-8, 8-7)
Jimmy Djema 1 1-2 3; Thomas Baietto 0 0-0 0; CJ Byrd 7 3-4 19; Leonel Hyatt 0 0-0 0; Alex McMurray 3 1-2 8; Alex Wolf 5 7-10 19; Jon Palmer 1 2-3 4; Dan Guise 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 14-20 55
GREENWICH........................11 15 15 14 -- 55
STAPLES...............................14 8 13 8 -- 43
3-point field goals: G -- Byrd 2, McMurray; S -- Whelan 2, Frusciante
Fouled out: S -- Whelan