Balance Carries New Canaan To Seventh Win In Last Eight Games

New Canaan’s Alex Gibbens goes in for an uncontested layup. (Mark Conrad)

NEW CANAAN — It has been a while since one of Danny Melzer’s players scored 15 points in a game. You would think he would remember because it has happened so infrequently.

That would usually be a sign of a team in trouble, with no one to rely on at the end of close games.

For Melzer, New Canaan’s boys basketball coach, it is a badge of distinction.

“We get contributions from everyone,” Melzer said following tonight’s 65-49 win over Norwalk. “It’s a great problem for me to have as a coach. We have a lot of guys, our program is very deep. I think we’re going to be good for years to come. The guys feed off that. They pick each other up. There is no selfishness.”

Assists are valued as much as points, and there were a number of them tonight as the Rams precisely moved the ball, which often ended up in the hands of an open player in the paint for an easy basket.

Ryan McAleer scores in the paint for New Canaan. (Mark Conrad)

“We’ve had a full year of playing together,” said guard Ben Sarda, who was serenaded often by a large student fan section on his birthday. “We’ve been playing basically all our lives together and the chemistry continues to build. Things are just clicking really well right now and we’re hoping to keep it going.”

Stephen Wronski led the Rams with 11 points. Six others players scored at least seven points. Leo Mangus, who was next with 10 points, came off the bench when Melzer removed his starters and did all his scoring in the final minutes. Alex Gibbens scored nine points.

The result was the Rams’ fourth straight win and seventh in their last eight games. They are 11-3 over all and 7-3 in league play. They have built up a nice cushion in the conference, with several games remaining against teams that are also trying to clinch playoff berths.

“Everyone makes an impact on the game,” said Sarda, who finished with seven points. “It goes beyond the seven or eight players. There are kids that don’t score but have a rebounding contribution or a passing contribution. Everyone from the first guy to the 17th guy makes a contribution to the team. I can’t say that I’ve ever been part of a basketball team like this.”

New Canaan’s Luke Rwambuya drives to the basket. (Mark Conrad)

The crowd of students has been growing, both in numbers and decibel level. The stands are no longer filled just with parents. A number of prominent football players who are used to being on the receiving end of the cheers are now the instigators. It has not been lost on the New Canaan players.

“It’s really special and the fans make it so much better supporting us,” Sarda said.

Norwalk (2-10, 1-8) was without Zaire Sellers, its best player, and was outmanned. The work by Matt Whelan, the Bears’ first-year coach, who could be heard talking to his players in a teacherly manner during timeouts, was not lost on Melzer, who three years ago was doing the same thing.

Norwalk’s Treyjon Lewis goes up for a shot. (Mark Conrad)

The Rams shot 59 percent from the field in the first half, using a late run to build a 34-24 lead. They extended it early in the third quarter and were ahead by as many as 20 points until Melzer gave his reserves playing time for most of the final period.

“The last few games we struggled on offense but tonight I thought we played better,” Melzer said. “We missed some open shots but we moved the ball extremely well, we’re very unselfish, we cut very well, we make the extra pass. It was nice to see us have a better offensive output.”

Rudy Roberts scored 11 points to lead Norwalk, which made seven 3-point shots.

New Canaan, which is 7-1 at home, travels to Brien McMahon on Friday night.

“New Canaan basketball used to be the laughingstock of the school and now it has become the big thing this year and that is awesome to see,” Sarda said.

 

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