BRIDGEPORT -- Over the course of its four-game losing streak, the Staples High boys basketball team put together solid first halves, only to crumble late under a flurry of missed shots, turnovers and lackluster defense.
But on Tuesday evening, the Wreckers finally put together a full four quarters at the expense of one of the FCIAC's midseason favorites.
After picking apart Bridgeport Central on offense early, building a 15-point lead at halftime, Staples fended off the Hilltoppers' late rally and pulled away for a 73-63 win.
"It's huge," Staples head coach Colin Devine said of the win, which lifted the Wreckers to 4-5. "You've got to give all the credit to our seniors, our captains and the leadership every day they provide in practice. ... Tonight is what we needed. We played a full game of basketball."
Staples, which averaged just 39 points during its losing skid, broke its scoring slump with the help of its seniors. Four players scored in double-figures, led by guard James Frusciante, who had a game-high 21 points. Forward Ross Whelan had a season-high 19 points, while Pete Rankowitz and Darryle Wiggins had 13 apiece.
Central, which saw its six-game winning streak end, fell to 6-2.
"We were really down the last four games," said Whelan, who led Staples with 13 points in the first half. "We needed to win this game. It was good to bounce back. We had a tough practice the last two days."
Staples led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but saw Central whittle that lead down to just 52-49 with a 9-2 run late in the third quarter. The Wreckers, who squandered a double-digit lead just two games earlier -- a 50-38 loss to Ridgefield -- didn't fall apart. This time, the Wreckers answered right back.
Whelan hit a 3-pointer to put Staples up 55-49, and Frusciante converted a steal into a layup, pushing the lead back to eight. The Wreckers led 57-51 after three quarters.
"We definitely had some poise," Devine said. "Our poise and intensity picked up in the third quarter. Central's a very good basketball team (and) we knew they were going to make a run. We just wanted to make sure we withstood it."
Central, which hadn't lost since Dec. 12 -- 66-64 to Trinity Catholic -- got to within five points in the fourth quarter. Junior guard Tyler Ancrum hit a bucket to cut the Hilltoppers' deficit down to 68-63 with 1:09 left, but Staples closed the game hitting five free throws.
The Hilltoppers, struggling on both ends of the floor, trailed 21-15 after the first quarter. They saw that deficit balloon to 37-20 late in the second quarter as Staples piled up points in both its halfcourt set and in transition.
"We're not ready to play. We lack leadership," Central head coach Barry McLeod said. "That's the bottom line. We need someone to grab somebody and say `Hey, this is the way to do things.' We don't have that."
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STAPLES 73, BRIDGEPORT CENTRAL 63
Alexander Addessi 0 0-0 0 Nicolaas Esposito 1 0-0 2 James Frusciante 7 6-10 21 Joe Greenwald 0 2-2 2 David Katz 0 0-0 0 Jacob Melnick 1 0-0 2 Peter Rankowitz 5 5-9 15 Nick Ward 0 0-0 0 Ross Whelan 8 1-2 19 Darryle Wiggins 5 3-4 13. Totals: 27 17-27 73.
Tyler Ancrum 5 4-9 13 Marcus Blackwell 4 2-2 10 ShaQuan Bretoux 5 3-4 15 Orhan Cecunjanin 4 0-0 9 Rickardo Grant 4 1-5 9 Dondre Daniels 0 0-0 0 Muamer Cecunjanin 0 0-0 0 Antoin Pettway 2 1-1 5 Jahdeh Somerville 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 11-21 63.
STAPLES 21 20 16 16 -- 73
CENTRAL 15 11 25 12 -- 63
3-pointers: S-- Whelan 2, Frusciante. C -- Bretoux 2, Orhan Cerujanin.