A 21-point lead past the midway point of the third quarter doesn't always guarantee a victory.

This was a lesson the Staples boys basketball team learned the hard way at Brien McMahon Monday. Although Staples had a 48-27 advantage with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter, it lost, 64-62 to host McMahon.

"You have to give credit to McMahon, they played good defense and rebounded," Wreckers coach Colin Devine said. "We just didn't finish."

Senators coach Mo Timlin said, "It's a tribute to our kids. They have character, and their work ethic is huge."

McMahon raised its record to 4-15, 4-13 in the FCIAC. Staples dropped to 9-10, 8-9, and its slim chance of making FCIACs became even slimmer.

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Senators senior captain Darkym Stroud (15 points, 10 rebounds) ruled the paint in the game's final minute. Stroud hit two free throws after an attempted putback off the offensive glass to make it 61-59 with 41.4 seconds remaining. After sophomore captain Larry McKinney went 1-for-2 from the foul line, Stroud grabbed the offensive rebound, laid it in to give McMahon its first lead of the night, and drew the foul. He hit the free throw to complete the 3-point play with 25.7 seconds left. McMahon led 63-61.

"I knew I had to be a sparkplug off the bench and jump high," said Stroud, who had 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Junior Andy Mitchell (10 points, six assists, four steals) lifted the Senators on both ends in the fourth quarter. Mitchell had five points in the final quarter, and kept McMahon in range by forcing two straight James Frusciante turnovers. He first forced a Frusciante travel, which led to two Stroud free throws, and then stole it from the Wrecker junior, which led to the go-ahead possession.

For most of the game, Timlin had senior Jimmy Martinez guard Frusciante, but switched it up in the final minute.

Mitchell described the first half and first 4:23 of the second half, which was dominated by Staples.

The Wreckers hit six 3-pointers in the first quarter, and senior captain Mike Argosh (16 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals) led the way by draining three treys. Classmate Vasili Tziolis (five points) also drained a 3-pointer.

Staples forced 15 McMahon turnovers in the first half, 20 overall. The Wreckers led 38-21 at the break, mostly with junior Pete Rankowitz hitting layups off outlet passes, mostly from Argosh and Frusciante (nine points, three rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocked shots).

Rankowitz (24 points, three rebounds, two assists, three steals) had 13 points in the third quarter, and his layup gave Staples the aforementioned 21-point lead.

Junior Ross Whelan (eight points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals) played well defensively for the Wreckers, and his forced turnovers led to transition baskets. Frusciante drove well and made a leaping interception.

Seniors Patrick Kohlmann and Isak Hrvacic sparked Staples off the bench. Kohlmann (two rebounds, two steals) had a diving steal, and tied up a Senator for a jump ball. Hrvacic (two assists) had a rebound and blocked shot.

Sophomore Darryle Wiggins (two rebounds, one assist, one steal) battled inside for Staples. Frusciante's layup kept the Wreckers up by 16 after three, 55-39, but McMahon owned the fourth quarter.

McKinney (seven points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals) was a defensive sparkplug, and was a force under the glass. Martinez (14 points, three steals) found his shooting groove.

The Senators forced 21 Wreckers turnovers, 16 in the second half, and the majority in the fourth quarter. Staples also helped McMahon by missing 12 layups.

Although they played poorly in the second half, the Wreckers looked like they were going to hold on after Argosh's layup made it 61-51.

"I told them at a timeout that we have an eternity remaining," Tomlin said. "I told them to keep digging. Staples was also getting tired."

Tomlin's never-say-die attitude produced the desired results. Martinez swished a 3-pointer, and Stroud hit a 3-point play to make it a 61-57 game with 1:20 to go.

After Stroud's free throw made it 64-62, the Wreckers had one last chance. However, Rankowitz' 3-pointer fell short at the buzzer.

"It's tough after coming off a win over Ridgefield," Devine said. "McMahon outplayed us down the stretch."