With his team facing a difficult stretch run where it will face the three best teams in the league over the next five games, Stamford High boys basketball coach Danny Melzer was contemplating the state of his squad following Friday's 47-42 victory at Fairfield Ludlowe.
"We're exactly where we want to be," Melzer said.
In normal coachspeak, that would mean Melzer is satisfied with the progress his team has made during this 10-4 (9-3 FCIAC) season. That record is especially pleasing considering the Black Knights won just six of 20 games a year ago in Melzer's rookie season as a head coach.
But Melzer wasn't discussing the physical or mental make-up of his team at this moment. No need to read between the lines. He was simply talking about the floor he was standing on.
"This is where we want to be after the regular season is over," he said, referring to the Ludlowe gym, site of the opening round of the FCIAC playoffs. "Our mindset is that we're coming back here."
After Kenny Wright and Kweshon Askew led the Knights to their latest triumph Friday, the Knights are firmly entrenched in the FCIAC's top five. Nevertheless, they might need to beat Greenwich, Central or Westhill -- three teams that entered play Friday with a combined 32-3 league mark -- to ensure a trip back to Ludlowe.
If Wright and Askew keep doing what they did Friday, the Knights should be one of the eight teams playing at Ludlowe on March 1. Wright scored 20 points, pulled down five rebounds and made both ends of a critical 1-and-1 with nine seconds remaining in the game and the Knights up three. Askew, Stamford's 6-foot-6 junior center, meanwhile, had one of his best games, scoring 15 points to go with 12 rebounds and four assists.
"We see flashes of how good (Askew) can be," Melzer said. "He does so many good things. You got a small glimpse of that tonight. He's going to be special."
Askew had 11 points and seven boards in the first half, and even drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Stamford a 7-4 lead early in the game.
"Wow, we weren't ready for that," Ludlowe coach John Dailey said of the 3. "After that we had to go out and guard him up top and then they ran some back-screens down low that hurt us. He was very good tonight."
Ludlowe (4-10, 4-8) hung with the Knights throughout. Led by Matt Doyle (18 points) and Mark Malone (13 points), the Falcons had an 18-11 lead early in the second quarter. But Stamford finished the half on a 10-0 run to take a 21-18 lead.
The Knights got up 40-29 before the Falcons rallied again, getting within three in the final two minutes. But a twisting drive to the hoop by Ancel Nevers and Wright's two free throws, plus a couple of nice defensive stops, sealed it.
Stamford 47, Ludlowe 42
STAMFORD (10-4, 9-3 FCIAC)
Kweshon Askew 7 0-0 15 Gianni Carwin 1 3-4 5 Jay Devito 1 0-0 2 James Gronberg 0 0-0 0 Ancel Nevers 1 1-3 3 Donny DePina 1 0-0 2 Kenny Wright 7 5-6 20 Jack Rakoczy 0 0-0 0 Richard Benoit 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-44 9-13 47.
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE (4-10, 4-8 FCIAC)
Owen Mockler 0 0-0 0 Matthew Doyle 7 0-0 18 Darren Lee 0 0-0 0 Chad Peterson 1 0-1 2 Mark Malone 5 0-0 13 Kiran Prakash 0 0-0 0 Jack Armstrong 0 0-0 0 Kevin Hickey 0 0-0 0 Hayes Kelchner 4 1-1 9 Christopher Howell 0 0-2 0. Totals: 17-47 1-4 42.
STAMFORD 11 10 15 11--47
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 15 3 11 13--42
3-pointers: S--Askew, Wright; FL--Doyle 4, Malone 3. Fouled out: FL--Peterson. Highlights: S--Askew 12 rebounds, 4 assists, Wright 5 rebounds; FL--Kelchner 6 rebounds, Peterson 5 rebounds, Hickey 5 rebounds.