Darien girls basketball team hangs on for crucial win over Wilton
There are two ways to look at the Darien girls basketball team's 33-28 home win over Wilton on Tuesday night: On one hand, the low score could be a result of both teams executing on defense. On the other, the score could be interpreted as a result of neither team hitting as many makeable shots as it typically does. In reality, it was likely a combination of both, but it was Darien which led from coast to coast to deal Wilton just its second loss in its last eight games.
In the big picture, Darien picked up a much-needed win as it attempts to make the FCIAC playoffs. Darien entered the game trailing Norwalk, Stamford and Staples (all 9-5 in FCIAC play) for the final three FCIAC tournament slots and tied with Fairfield Warde and Westhill (both 8-6 in FCIAC play) for ninth place.
"There was good defense on both sides. When we started running our offense the way we should, that was when we pulled ahead," Darien's Kate Bushell said. "Needing to win every game is really a good atmosphere for us. It really pumps us up."
Because of other FCIAC results from Tuesday night, Darien is now in a four-way tie for the last two playoff spots with Stamford, Staples and Fairfield Warde. With a tiebreaker advantage over all three, Darien would currently be the No. 7 seed in the FCIAC playoffs.
Even so, Darien coach Gary Peterson doesn't sound like he wants to leave anything to chance and has stated that his team basically needs to "run the table" to qualify.
"It looks like we're going to need to run the table. We obviously can't catch [Wilton], but these wins all count for us and we need them all," Peterson said. "We didn't make a lot of layups, but we played a lot of defense, which is something we do."
On the opening possession of the game, Emily Stein drained an open 3-pointer to give Darien a lead that it would not relinquish for the rest of the night. The first quarter ended on a bucket by Wilton's Erin Cunningham, which cut Darien's lead to 7-4.
The second quarter was highlighted by a 5-0 Blue Wave run which boosted their lead to 16-8 lead at halftime. Three of those points came courtesy of Kelly Karczewski, who netted a swish from behind the arc.
After Stein opened the third quarter with a trey to increase Darien's lead to 19-8, Wilton's Casey Pearsall went one-for-two from the line and dropped a layup. The free throw represented the Warriors' first point in eight minutes of play, and the layup was their first field goal in 10 minutes. Undaunted by another Karczewski trey that ran Darien's lead to 22-14, Wilton managed to close to within 23-17 by quarter's end.
With its playoff fate perhaps hanging in the balance, Darien responded with an 8-0 run to increase its lead to 31-21. Bushell got her team back on track by laying up a shot and converting the ensuing free throw for the three-point play. On Wilton's next possession, Stein stole the ball and converted a layup, and Marren also drained a layup and converted the free throw after being fouled.
Wilton, which entered the game tied for third place in the FCIACs, fell to fourth with the loss, and coach Jaclyn Woitkowski indicated that her team will need to do a better job of draining makeable shots.
"They should be answering on the first [shot] and not worrying about whether or not they're getting the foul," Woitkowski said. "This is varsity so they should be making their layups, even with one person on them."
Marren and Stein each reached double digits for Darien with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Fulton scored a game-high 15 points (including six in the fourth quarter) for Wilton.
With no margin for error as it pertains to its standing in the FCIAC playoff picture, Darien (10-7 overall) plays host to Stamford tonight at 7 p.m.