DANBURY -- The Danbury Hatters girls basketball team has been a model of perfection in the 2012-13 season, winning all of their games thus far. The winning train continued to roll on Tuesday night at the Danbury Gymnasium as the Hatters (15-0) snapped Darien's six-game win streak with a 51-44 FCIAC victory.
After falling behind 8-0, Danbury went on a 16-3 run to take the lead in the middle of the second quarter. Danbury, however, responded with a 16-2 run of its own to close out the half and led 29-18 at the midway point.
After yet another Darien push, the Hatters went on an 11-2 run late in the third quarter to pull away from the Blue Wave.
"That's our game," said Danbury coach Jackie DiNardo. "Pushing up the ball, making passes, scoring shots, and playing defense. What you saw in that second quarter, that's definitely our game."
Rachel Gartner scored a game-high 16 points and Kayla Handberry added 15 (11 of which came in the first half) in the victory for the Hatters.
Handberry was especially dominant throughout the game, using her strength to grab offensive rebounds and take high percentage shots from inside the paint. Handberry's presence down low was too much for Darien to handle and a key factor in the Hatters' victory.
The win for Danbury was easily the most challenging of the season thus far. The Hatters average margin of victory this season coming into the game was 27.1 points per game. The team's explosive offense and superb defense had made them a mismatch against most of their opponents. However, Darien's stifling defense gave the Hatters their first obstacle of the season.
"We're glad to see that these games are getting tougher," Dinardo said. "We know it's not going to be easy from here. Games are going to get more challenging and we need to continue to work hard."
Despite the victory, Dinardo was not happy with her team's free-throw shooting. The Hatters shot just 6-of-15 from the line. This helped the Blue Wave stay in the game during the fourth quarter and have a chance to erase their deficit.
"We have to make our free throws," said DiNardo. "It's important to make those so we can put teams away."
The Blue Wave received balanced scoring on the roster sheet. Three of their starters (Emily Stein, Kate Bushell, and Meg Marren) reached double-figures in scoring, but key turnovers and inopportune misses dashed their chances of winning.
The Blue Wave got closer than any other team to defeating the unbeaten Hatters, as the Hatters won a game by fewer than 10 points for the first time all season.
NOTES: It was Cancer Awareness Night at Danbury High. The Hatters wore pink jerseys in remembrance of DiNardo's late husband, Bob, who was her assistant coach for many seasons before he died of cancer. Prior to the official start of the game, there was a ceremonial tip-off with a pink and white basketball. DiNardo also wore a pink sweater in tribute.
DANBURY 51, DARIEN 44
Kaeleigh Morill 0 0-0 0 Emily Stein 2 4-4 10 Erin Karczewski 3 1-1 7 Kate Bushell 5 0-0 10 Kate Fiore 0 0-0 0 Avery Maley 0 0-0 0 Kelly Karczewski 2 0-2 5 Meg Marren 4 4-7 12 Kendra Fitzpatrick 0 0-0 0 Ali Aparicio 0 0-0 0 Dagny Belak 0 0-0 0 Claire Naughton 0 0-0 0 Totals: 16 9-14 44.
Kasey Boisuelt 0 0-0 0 Nahla Ward 0 0-0 0 Allie Smith 4 0-3 8 Shannon Geary 0 0-0 0 Rachel Gartner 7 2-4 16 Uniqua Tucker 1 2-4 4 Janine Kerr 0 0-0 0 Cass Almonte 0 0-0 0 Rebecca Gartner 3 1-2 8 Kayla Handberry 6 1-2 13 Kellie Gaston 0 0-0 0 Kaitlyn Aldridge 0 0-0 0 Melissa Peachman 0 0-0 0 Lindsey Eanniello 0 0-0 0 Totals: 22 6-15 51.
DARIEN11 7 12 14 -- 44
DANBURY13 16 13 9 -- 51
3-pointers: Dar -- Stein 2, K. Karczewski; Danb -- Rebecca Gartner.