DARIEN -- After securing a terrifc win over Staples one week ago to clinch a state tournament berth, the Darien girls basketball team (8-9) had set things up beautifully for its Senior Night. Then, the reigning FCIAC champions hit.
Controlling play from start to finish, the Danbury Hatters (17-1) topped the Blue Wave 45-28 last Tuesday at Darien high school. Rachel Gartner topped all scorers with 12 points and led a dominant Hatter defense that limited the home team to just two points in the second quarter. Danbury closed the first half on a 12-0 run, which pushed the score to 26-6 and all but sealed their seventeenth victory in a row.
Darien guard Kelly Karczewski collected 10 points and a number of steals in the final home game of her career. She and fellow senior Emily Stein were honored pregame by head coach Kate Lauten and given a standing ovation by the crowd on-hand. Stein finished with five points in the losing effort.
"We really wanted to get a good home win," Karczewski said. "But it doesn't always work out the way you want it."
Straying from her typical 2-3 zone defense, Danbury coach Jackie DiNardo decided to deploy a tight man-to-man defense from the opening tip to limit Darien's perimeter play. The move paid off immediately, as the Hatters raced out to a 10-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game.
DiNardo's strategy caught both Lauten and her team off-guard, putting them in frantic search for quality shots all night. The Blue Wave shot 2-25 in the opening half.
"We have not shot that badly all season," Lauten lamented. "It was unfortunate that it happened tonight and that it happened against a good team. We've played against man-to-man before and been fine ... we just couldn't find a rhythm tonight, which was frustrating."
After recording the first basket of the second quarter, Darien went scoreless for the remainder of the half, only to watch the Hatters continually sprint back for easy transition points. Amidst the 12-0 Danbury run, forward Shannon Geary took advantage of a packed in defense and swished a three from the right wing. Geary finished with nine points.
Following the intermission, Blue Wave sophomore Emily Coyle hit a three-pointer of her own to snap the scoreless stretch early in the third quarter. However, the Hatters answered soon after by extending their lead to its largest margin of the night at 27 points. Danbury continued to deny passes into the post through the end of the quarter, forcing Darien into a bevy of long-range shots.
"We preach defense like you couldn't imagine," DiNardo said. "We practice man, we practice zone ... you just have to mix things up in this league so you're not too predictable."
By the time Karczewski could knock down a couple three-pointers in the fourth, it was simply too little too late. Despite getting outscored 16-6 over the final eight minutes, the Hatter back-ups effectively ran out the clock and the game was over.
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Rachel Gartner 4 2-2 12 Allie Smith 5 0-0 10 Shannon Geary 3 2-2 9 Kayla Hanberry 2 2-3 6 Rebecca Gartner 2 0-0 5 Janine Kerr 1 0-0 2 Lauren Guiry 0 1-2 1 Andreah Orr 0 0-0 0 Michelle Leppla 0 0-0 0 Victoria Eanniello 0 0-0 0 Chloe Henning 0 0-0 0 Zoe Coleman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 7-9 45.
Kelly Karczewski 2 4-4 10 Emily Stein 2 1-2 5 Katie Richter 2 0-0 5 Emily Croyle 1 0-0 3 Kate Fiore 1 1-1 3 Avery Maley 1 0-0 2 Casey Ryan 0 0-0 0 Kaeleigh Morrill 0 0-0 0 Julia Cornaccia 0 0-0 0 Annie Wright 0 0-0 0 Catherine Arrix 0 0-0 0 Kendra Fitzpatrick 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9 6-7 28.
DANBURY 12 14 13 6 -- 45
DARIEN 4 2 6 16 -- 28
3-pointers: DB--Ra. Gartner 2, Re. Gartner, Geary DN--Karczewski 2, Croyle, Richter