FAIRFIELD — The Danbury boys basketball team won its ninth straight game tonight, completing a week in which it had to grind at different tempos to keep the streak alive.
After taking a 10-point halftime lead at Fairfield Warde, the Hatters struggled with fullcourt pressure, turned the ball over seven times in the third quarter and suddenly found themselves in a close game.
Danbury held on down the stretch, including a controversial ending, scoring its final six points from the foul line for a 45-42 win.
Denali Burton finished with 19 points but was held to just four in the second half. Burton went long stretches without the ball, but made an impact on the defensive end.
“I have to do a better job of getting Denali touches inside,” Danbury coach Casey Bock said. “Fortunately our defense carried us.”
The Hatters’ depth was tested when Keyon Moore, a good ballhandler and veteran presence, sat out the second half with a calf injury.
“Keyon is a warrior,” Bock said. “He played hard the first half. Without him in the game we had to find some pieces and defensively I thought we did just well enough to pull off the win.”
Javon Hernandez, the Hatters’ point guard, scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, six from the foul line.
Danbury, which needed double overtime to defeat Brien McMahon on Tuesday, is now 10-2 over all and 9-1 in league play.
The Mustangs (6-5, 4-4) lost for the third time in four games over the last eight days. Rebounding from a poor first half in which they scored just 13 points, Brendan McMahon made one of two free throws with 10.4 seconds left to get within 43-42.
Hernandez was fouled and made two free throws to give Danbury a three point lead. After a timeout with 6.6 seconds left, the Mustangs missed three shots to try and tie the game. But the clock did not start when the ball was inbounded. Though play took longer than the time remaining, the officials awarded the ball to Danbury and put 1.2 seconds on the clock.
The Hatters inbounded the ball and there was an immediate hard foul that led to words being exchanged. The officials then declared the game over.
Neither coach was exactly sure what happened and the game officials declined an opportunity to clarify the two decisions.
“Our halftime speech was all about defense,” Warde coach Ryan Swaller said. “I was upset that Denali had 15 in the first half. He’s a great player but when you’re focusing on the guy there’s no way he should be able to do that.”
McMahon scored 11 points — nine in the second half — to ignite the Mustangs’ comeback. He opened the second half with five quick points, including two baskets off of steals. Matt Becker added 10 points.
“Defense is a positive take away, especially the second half,” Swaller said.
Bock said this was a game when the Hatters’ defense needed to guide the team.
“We got stops down on that end and then were able to beat the zone and get some easy buckets in the first half,” Bock said. “The second half we didn’t do that much and Keyon not being in the game sort of limits our options. They did a good job of slowing us down and making us play in the half court with the press.”