Boys basketball: Central defeats St. Joseph in back-and-forth affair

Gavin Greene splits a pair of Central defenders. — Andy Hutchison photo
Gavin Greene splits a pair of Central defenders. — Andy Hutchison photo

Visiting Bridgeport Central nipped St Joseph 67-66 in a wild FCIAC boys basketball showdown on Friday night.

Those are pretty high point totals, but the number that stood out even more, and that had a huge impact on the outcome, was 63.

More specifically the numbers 37 and 26 combined. That was the total amount of turnovers committed between the home and visiting teams, respectively.

Central’s 26 was noteworthy in its own right, but the Cadets outdid their foes in the category.

“It’s hard to overcome those numbers and Central kept coming. They never gave up,” St Joe’s coach Paul Dudzinski said.

The Cadets did not pack it in and fought to the finish, erasing a seven-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter. The teams traded leads in the waning minutes, with Central scoring the final basket with just five seconds to play.

“It’s unfortunate because we would have liked to walk out of here with a win,” Dudzinski said.

Instead, the Cadets left Vito Montelli Court knowing their first win will have to wait until the calendar turns into the new year.

St Joe’s fell to 0-3 heading into a Wednesday, Jan. 3 visit to Trinity Catholic of Stamford.

Central escaped with a season-opening win. Raj Walker led the Hilltoppers with 20 points.

Gavin Greene led St Joe’s with 25 points, and Paul Fabbri added 20.

Fabbri was a clutch 4-of-5 from the foul line in the final quarter, contributing to his team’s 9-for-13 mark, including a pair with 1:53 left. That  gave the Cadets a 64-63 lead and he connected on two more with 28 seconds to go for a 66-65 edge.

Central’s Fab Agramonte scored one of his two buckets to decide the outcome in the closing seconds.

Green’s half-court heave clanked off the backboard as time expired.

It was Central’s full-court press that made the difference.

The Cadets led by as many as 11 in the opening quarter and carried an 18-8 lead into the second.

The lead was 11 midway through the second, before Central finished the half on a 13-4 run to close to within 34-32 at the break.

Both teams capitalized on steals and throw-aways.

St Joe’s went up six, 43-37 early in the third then the Hilltoppers outscored them 15-1 for a 52-44 lead.

The Cadets trailed 55-50 after three stanzas, and twice fell behind by seven in the fourth.

Down 60-53, the Cadets pulled even as Greene sank a couple foul shots and converted off a long pass for two points. Ace Luzietti next canned a left corner 3-pointer with 3:09 left.

Greene capped a 10-0 run with a shot from beyond the arc, this one on the right side, following a turnover caused by Brian Dineen.

The score was 63-60 St Joe’s.

Central scored the next four points to set up the back-and-forth finish.

Luzietti, who helped the Cadets stay in the game with two second-half 3-pointer for his six points and some timely steals, broke free to catch a long pass with a dozen seconds to play and his team ahead 66-65.

He tried to initiate a foul, and drew contact going up for a layup, but it was deemed a clean defensive effort. Then Agramonte’s runner in the paint made for the final lead change.

“It was an exciting game,” said Dudzinski, whose lineup got seven rebounds from Greene, five assists from Fabbri, and four steals each from Fabbri and Luzietti.

Jared Grindrod scored six points and Dineen added four.

The game’s momentum swings were made possible by a combination of the effort of both teams and steals, errant passes, and pressure defense.

“It was ugly, but both teams played their hardest,” Dudzinski said. “All we can do is get better and move forward from it. We’ve got to take care of the ball.”

Bridgeport Central (1-0)

Zach William 5 1-2 11, Fab Argumente 2 0-0 4, DJ Fulton 7 1-2 15, Raquan Riley 2 2-2 6, Travis Griffen 4 0-0 11, Raj Walter 7 6-13 20, Tyree Newell 0 0-0 0.  Totals: 27 10-17 67.

St. Joseph (0-3)

Jared Grindrod 3 0-0 6, Dan Tobin 1 0-0 2, Paul Fabbri 6 6-7 20, Gavin Greene 11 2-2 25, Brian Dineen 2 0-0 4, Ace Luzietti 2 0-0 6, Ian Argento 0 0-0 0, Bobby Sullivan 1 0-0 2, Jake Murphy 0 0-0 0, Will Diamantis 0 1-2-1, Tyler Dubose 0 0-0 0.  Totals: 26 9-13 66.

Central 8 24 23 12 - 67

St. Joseph 18 16 16 16 - 66

3 pointers: C-Griffen 3, SJ-Luzietti 2, Fabbri 2, Greene.