FCIAC boys basketball season packed with 10 overtime games, including four double-OT contests

A few minutes seemed like an eternity.

The Ludlowe boys basketball team was leading Darien by seven with the ball and 2:30 remaining, but the time couldn’t pass fast enough for coach John Dailey.

“I felt like the last two and  a half minutes against Darien was the longest two and a half minutes I’ve ever coached,” Dailey said

There’s good reason. During the previous week, the Falcons had played three games and all went to overtime, part of a spate of OT contests that have peppered the FCIAC schedule this season.

So even though his Falcons would go on to win 67-55 against Darien, there was a tense feeling in the waning moments.

“We were up 10 and it felt like we were up by one,” Dailey said. “When you go through that three times in a row, you feel like no lead is safe.”

Dailey’s fellow FCIAC coaches would likely agree.

The league has had 10 overtime games this season, with four going to double OT.

From Jan. 6-17, FCIAC teams played in 35 games and eight, or 23%, went to overtime. Ten of the league’s 16 teams have been involved in at least one overtime contest, and five have played at least two.

“It’s parity and competitiveness,” said Casey Bock, coach of No. 5 Danbury, which won double overtime games against Ridgefield and New Canaan. “New Canaan and Ridgefield are well-coached teams, and there are a bunch of solid teams in the FCIAC. So games are going to be close and it’s going to be that way throughout the whole year.

“I think we’re going to have some more overtime games coming up, too.”

“The league is a little bit more balanced and more overtimes means we’re not having as many lopsided games,” FCIAC commissioner Dave Schulz said. “It is pretty noticeable to have that many overtime games this early in the year.”

Ludlowe’s three-game OT streak included losses to Greenwich 47-43, and Norwalk 46-42, and a 64-59 win over Maloney.

That’s not even the longest overtime streak.

New Canaan played four straight, defeating Southington 54-51 in December, losing in double OT to Danbury 60-57 and in OT to Staples 68-67, and beating Wilton 59-56 in 2 OTs.

Danbury, Greenwich and Norwalk have all played two overtime games, with Staples, Wilton, Warde, Ridgefield and St. Joseph each in one.

New Canaan coach Danny Melzer shied away from the word “parity” instead focusing on competitiveness.

“This is competitive,” Melzer said. “There are a lot of teams that are competitive, balanced, and well-coached, and you’re seeing the product of that. You’re seeing a lot of close games and a lot of competitive games between teams that are playing high-level basketball.

“It’s awesome for our league, the players and the crowds I’m seeing it all over the league.”

Melzer also pointed to the league’s performance against other conferences, which has resulted in a 41-15 record and .732 winning percentage against non-FCIAC teams.

Danbury leads the FCIAC with records of 9-0 overall and 4-0 in the league, but three of the Hatters’ victories, including the two in double overtime, have been decided by three or fewer points and they needed a fourth-quarter rally to beat Staples last week.

“I’m hoping that our kids understand how deep the league is and that every night is going to be a tough game,” Bock said. “I try to get the message to them that with us being undefeated, we’re going to get every team’s best effort.”

An example of the close play in the league, Danbury is followed by Staples, Ridgefield and Greenwich with 3-1 FCIAC marks, and then eight teams, half the league, are 2-2 in the conference.

New Canaan and Ludlowe had similar experiences during their overtime streaks, following back-to-back losses with much-needed victories.

“That was huge,” Melzer said of the Rams’ win against Wilton. “Our kids were pretty upbeat and encouraged about the way we were playing, but at the same time, they want to win. To play another really good team in Wilton and come out on top was really important for us. That helped feed into our next game against St. Joe’s (a 58-51 win).”

Ludlowe overcame Maloney’s last-second buzzer beater to tie the game and won in OT.

“They were pretty fired up in the locker room after that game,” Dailey said. “We did a great job of closing the game out in the overtime. So I’d like to think even though the other two games were losses, that helped us beat Maloney.”

Win or lose, the OT experiences will help in the long run, according to Dailey.

“Learning how to win does not happen overnight,” Dailey said. “It could take months, it could take a year. Guys have to go through those situations and unfortunately, sometimes you come out of it on the wrong end, but it will make you better in the long run.

“You can simulate those situations all you want in practice, but until you go through that in games, you really don’t have an idea of how hard it is to win.”

David.Stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports