STAMFORD -- Apparently no one informed the Darien and Stamford High girls basketball teams that Thursday's regular-season-ending game would have little relevance in the final standings. The way the two schools played -- as if the loser would be exiled -- seemed to prove that.
On the surface, Darien's 63-58 overtime victory didn't mean much. Both teams had clinched playoff berths, and both could not climb high enough to gain home-court advantage in the first round. But try telling that to these teams.
"This is the way we go every time out," Darien coach Katie Lauten said. "We're a very enthusiastic team. We play like it's for the state championship every game."
Darien (15-5, 14-4), led by Meg Marren and Kate Bushell, rallied from seven points down in the final three minutes to force overtime. Marren finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds while Bushell had 23 and seven. Kelly Karczewski added 10 points for the Blue Wave.
The Black Knights (16-4, 14-4 FCIAC), who committed 33 turnovers, were handicapped because their two captains, Kelsey Santagata and Brianna Gordon, played only about half the game due to foul trouble. But that didn't put a damper on their enthusiasm, either.
"That's how we should play every game, like it's for the state championship," SHS coach Todd Parness said. "We turned it over and missed some free throws at the wrong time and came up short. But hopefully we can bounce back from this."
Stamford ended up as the sixth seed and will play at No. 3 city-rival Westhill in Saturday's quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Darien earned the fifth seed and will play at No. 4 Danbury Saturday at a time to be determined.
The Knights missed Santagata (12 points, 13 rebounds) and Gordon (seven points), but still owned a 52-45 lead with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Darien then went on an 8-0 run with Bushell scoring six, to take the lead. With SHS ahead 55-53, Karczewski scored with 18 seconds remaining to tie it. The Blue Wave never trailed in overtime.
"As a coach I have never played a game like this yet," Lauten said of the frenetic pace. "It seemed every possession was played as if there were 10 seconds left in the game. "It was absolutely incredible."
Stamford led 9-7 when Santagata left with her second foul. She returned to start the second half with the Knights trailing 24-18 but picked up a quick technical for her third personal foul and didn't return until the fourth quarter. Darien took a 39-36 lead into the fourth quarter.
"Without (Santagata and Gordon) we managed to keep it close," Parness said. "That was a good sign. But we missed (two of their last three free throws in the fourth quarter) and had some ridiculous turnovers."
Darien was 27 of 66 from the field, Stamford 24 of 61. Stamford won the battle of the boards 45-28 and forced 17 turnovers. Anisa Fortt led SHS with 14 points.
DARIEN 65, STAMFORD 58 (OT)
DARIEN (15-5, 14-4 FCIAC)
Emily Stein 3 0-0 6; Erin Karcaewski 0 0-0 0; Kate Bushell 9 3-3 23; Kelly Karczewski 5 0-4 10; Meg Marren 10 6-11 26; Kendra Fitzpatrick 0 0-0 0; Kelliegh Morrill 0 0-0 0; Kate Fiore 0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-66 9-18 65
STAMFORD (16-4, 14-4 FCIAC)
Ashyla Cody 3 2-3 10; Brianna Gordon 3 1-1 7; Kelsey Santagata 5 2-3 12; Tiana England 3 2-3 8; Julie Piskin 0 0-0 0; Anisa Fortt 7 0-1 14; Maxine Fodiman 2 1-1 5; Oriana Merone 1 0-0 2. Totals: 24-61 8-12 58.
DARIEN 9 15 15 16 10-65
STAMFORD 11 7 18 19 3--58
3-pointers: D--Bushell 2; S--Cody 2.
Highlights: D--Marren 15 rebounds, Bushell 7 rebounds; S--Santagata 13 rebounds, Cody 10 rebounds, Fortt 10 rebounds.