WILTON -- After barely sneaking into the FCIAC tournament as the No. 8 seed in each of the past two seasons, the Darien girls basketball team is looking to take that next step in 2012-13.
And if Wednesday's season-opening tilt at Wilton was any indication of things to come, the Blue Wave may indeed be on the right track to doing just that.
Darien built an early lead thanks to 18 points apiece from Kelly Karczewski and Meg Marren, played tough defense and withstood a Wilton third quarter rally to claim a 55-42 opening night win to give new coach Katie Lauten a victory in her debut.
"Apparently, this was an upset, but we didn't see it that way. They've been ready," Lauten said. "I went to school in Wilton so to be able to come back here and win here was great. I've had this game marked on my calendar for a couple of months now."
The Blue Wave took their first and final lead after a trey by Emily Stein put them up 5-4 in the first quarter, but it was Karczewski who enabled Darien to dominate the opening quarter 17-8 by sinking a pair of 3-pointers for her first six points.
"We were really fired up in this one. Everyone was saying that Wilton is a team on the rise and we proved that we're just as good and better," Karczewski said. "I came out hitting shots in warm-ups and I was hoping to bring that into the game."
Wilton's Erica Mayer and Cori Cannavino brought the Warriors back into the game by notching four points each in the second quarter to cut Darien's halftime lead to 28-21.
Wilton seized the momentum in the third quarter when Erin Cunningham sank three baskets on three straight Wilton possessions to get her to team to within 30-27.
"I think if we made layups and free throws it would have been a very different game," Wilton coach Jaclyn Woitkowski said. "Our defense was lacking and we're known for our defense. If the defense isn't there, we're not going to win games."
Darien, however, refused to surrender the lead and went on a 9-0 run between the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. Claire Naughton and Karczewski each scored at the end of the third quarter, which was followed by a Meg Marren basket and a Bushell trey in the final quarter.
"I think it shows a lot that we were able to come out right away and win," Lauten said. "I'm hoping that the girls now see that we are in that upper echelon."
Darien 55, Wilton 42
Totals: 17 16-28 55.
Erica Mayer 5 1-2 11 Alyssa Malvarosa 3 4-9 10 Erin Cunningham 4 0-0 8 Cori Cannavino 3 0-2 6 Hayley English 1 1-2 3 Casey Pearsall 1 0-0 2 Mckenna Pearsall 1 0-0 2.
Totals: 18 6-15 42.
DARIEN 17 11 9 18 -- 55
WILTON 8 13 11 10 -- 42
3-Pointers: D--Kelly Karczewski (3), Kate Bushell (3) Emily Stein.
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