NEW CANAAN -- In a rematch of the LaVista Tournament Championship game, the New Canaan and Darien girls basketball teams crossed paths once again on Tuesday night at New Canaan High School. This time was decidedly less competitive, however, as the Rams led for the entire game, dispatching their rivals 48-35. After starting the campaign 0-2, the Rams have won six out of their last seven games.
New Canaan, which won a 61-58 nail-biter against Darien in the LaVista Tournament finale on Dec. 29, received a game-high 17 points from Sarah Mannelly. According to Mannelly, New Canaan won by a greater margin due in large part to its ability to adapt to a different style of game.
"Both teams didn't have their post players [New Canaan's Kelly Armstrong and Darien's Meg Marren], so it was more of a guard game," said Mannelly, who also notched five rebounds, seven assists and six steals. "I think we did a good job of dealing with what players we did have. I think Ellie Wright stepped up in making those clutch shots and Courtney [Rogers] was on fire again."
The Rams wasted no time asserting themselves from the opening tip, as Rogers opened the scoring by draining a trey and Mannelly notched consecutive buckets for a 7-0 lead. Darien's Lane Davis got her team on the board, and New Canaan held a 12-7 lead at the end of the first stanza.
With her team holding an 18-13 lead and less than 10 seconds remaining in the half, Wright dropped a 3-pointer to extend the Rams' halftime lead to 21-13.
After Darien's Leslie Yuen opened the second half scoring with a trey which cut the New Canaan lead to 21-16, the Rams caught fire and went on a 19-4 run to close out the quarter, increasing their lead to 40-20 and effectively ending the competitive phase of the contest.
"I think our shots weren't falling, and it didn't come together tonight. We definitely missed Meg," Yuen said. "I think we just lost our composure for a little bit and it kind of got away from us."
New Canaan made several substitutions midway through the final quarter, and the Blue Wave (4-5) managed to shrink the Rams' (6-3) lead to 13 points by game's end.
In addition to Mannelly's big night, Rogers scored 13 points (including a trio of 3-pointers) and Collette Pellegrini de Paur and Wright netted six points apiece.
New Canaan went for its seventh win in eight games on Thursday at Staples, but the result was not available at press time.
"We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game just from knowing what happened the first time we played [Darien]," New Canaan coach Kim Palmer said. "Our girls showed up, and I was very proud with the way we played tonight. The girls played hard, we worked the ball around and we were able to get a big lead."
Darien, which has lost five of seven, tries to get back on the winning track tonight at Greenwich at 5:30 p.m.
"We had our chances, but we just couldn't put it in the basket tonight. New Canaan shot lights out. They just didn't miss, and I give them credit," Darien coach Gary Peterson said. "The urgency has always been there, and we expect to make it [to FCIACs]. We made it last year, and we expect to make it again this year."