STAMFORD -- Not long after his team narrowly escaped Stamford High School on Tuesday night with a 46-44 victory, Greenwich coach Bill Brehm went around the locker room and asked his players what they could do to improve.
There was no shortage of possible answers: making shots in the paint, taking better care of the ball, playing smarter with a lead, controlling the defensive boards and, perhaps most importantly on this day, not missing six straight free throws in the final 25 seconds to allow an opponent that was on the verge of being blown out the chance at a game-winning shot.
Brehm's question was easier posed after a victory that improved the Cardinals to 2-1.
"I don't know what it is," Brehm admitted. "We take a look at the scoreboard and we stop doing fundamental things. We stop playing defense the way we know how to do. We stop reading defenses. I understand that basketball is a game of runs. Somehow we don't close them out."
There were plenty of runs in the Kuczo gymnasium. The biggest, an 11-0 spurt to close the opening half, eventually led to the Cardinals taking a 35-20 advantage with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.
Just as suddenly -- and improbably, as the game was going to that point -- the Black Knights scored 19 of the next 23 points to forge a 39-39 tie on Kenny Wright's basket after Greenwich turned the ball over on an inbounding violation.
Greenwich seemed to regain control, with two free throws by Alex Wolf making the score 46-41 with 52 seconds left. After Ancel Nevers hit a 3-point shot for Stamford, the Cardinals missed six straight free throws.
Still, they held on after Wolf blocked a running 30-foot attempt by Joe Palumbo at the buzzer.
"If you are going to play ugly, it's good that it is an ugly win," Brehm said.
The loss left Stamford (0-3) and first-year coach Danny Melzer still looking for their first wins. Kenny Wright led a balanced attack with 12 points, while Nevers added 10.
The Black Knights made just 1 of 12 field goal attempts and scored 3 points in the second quarter, yet still put themselves in a position to get that elusive victory with their hard work at both ends of the court.
"It hurts," Melzer said. "We played much better than the first two games, when we didn't play tough. They caught a couple of breaks and we didn't catch a couple of breaks. They played and left it all out on the floor. I'd rather focus on the positive than focus on the negative and work from there."
C.J. Byrd scored a game-high 16 points for Greenwich, which was coming off a double overtime loss at Trinity Catholic on Friday. Alex McMurray added 13 points.
"Give Stamford credit," Brehm said. "They stayed with it and made a nice run. Alex Wolf blocking that shot was huge. The only thing I am going to do is put blinders on the kids so they don't look at the scoreboard."
Melzer, a former player at Stamford, said he was not frustrated by the pursuit of his first win.
"It's not about me," he said. "I just want it for these kids. They did everything but win the game. We will work hard to prepare for Staples on Friday."
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GHS 46, STAMFORD 44
Alex McMurray 6 0-12 13; Dan Guise 0 0-0 0; Jimmy Diejma 0 3-6 3; Alex Wolf 3 2-3 8; Leonel Hyatt 1 0-2 2; C.J. Byrd 6 3-6 16; Jake Tennenbaum 1 1-2 4. TOTALS: 17 9-21 46.
Joe Palumbo 0 0-0 0; James Gronberg 0 0-0 0; Evans Antoine 1 1-2 3; Tamarce Sterling 1 2-2 4; Ancel Nevers 4 0-0 10; Jelani Tonge 2 0-0 4; Gianni Garwin 1 0-0 3; Kenny Wright 5 1-3 12; Kewshon Askew 1 0-0 2; David Gillette 3 0-0 6. TOTALS: 18 4-7 44.
GREENWICH 15 13 9 9--46
STAMFORD 13 3 14 14--44
3-point shots: G--McMurray, Byrd, Tennenbaum; S--Nevers 2, Garwin, Wright.