The Brien McMahon High School boys basketball team has played as two completely different teams at times this season. The high-speed, hard-hitting McMahon team won gritty games over Westhill and Danbury in the regular season . But the lackadaisical McMahon squad got blown out by Ridgefield and Bassick.
The latter showed up during the first half of the first round game of the Class LL state tournament against 26th-seeded Newtown. McMahon shot less than 35 percent from the field and trailed, 26-22. It took a passionate halftime speech by coach Mo Tomlin to remind his players what they were capable of doing.
"I told them to play hungrier. They needed to turn up the defensive intensity," Tomlin said. "They got the emotion of the big night out of their system and dug in. That was the difference in the game."
Al Alzuphar, a 6-foot-10 center who transferred from Greenwich High School, finally got his chance. He had missed 14 games because of transfer eligibility rules. Alzuphar towered over the Newtown players and dominated the boards, racking up a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead McMahon to a 64-45 first round victory.
"I've been waiting for a game like this all year," Alzuphar said. "Coach Tomlin called it, that this would be my breakout game. We just have to play hard every play of the game and get every rebound, every pass, every bucket."
McMahon brought intensity on defense in the third quarter that had been sorely lacking in the first half. The Senators shut down Newtown's leading scorer, Josh Engler, and outscored the Nighthawks 24-4 in the third. McMahon did not give Newtown any time to set up, throwing the team off its groove. From there, it was smooth sailing for the No. 7 Senators.
TJ McCrae added 13 points for McMahon, while CJ Langley contributed nine. McMahon's leading scorer Tyler Schular did not play. Aside from Engler, the Senators held Newtown to just three field goals in the second half.
Brien McMahon will host at least one more home game in the CIAC Class LL state tournament . They take on Wilbur Cross in the second round Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Can the Brien McMahon boys make a deep run in the Class LL tournament? Start the discussion below!
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