Darien rides defensive change to victory in tourney opener over Foran
Locked up in a tight battle with Foran of Milford, the host Darien High School girls basketball team overcame a slim halftime deficit and pulled away late to win the first round matchup of the LaVista tournament on Tuesday night.
A strong outside shooting presence, led by Bushell, combined with Marren's hard work down low, were keys to victory. The biggest factor, however, may have been in an adjustment on defense. After halftime, the Blue Wave switched from mostly man-to-man defensive schemes to almost exclusively one-three and two-three setups.
"Once we got our defense going the way we wanted to we just shut them down," said Bushell, whose team turned a 21-19 halftime deficit into a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter before really clamping down and holding Foran to only four final-quarter points.
Foran hit a buzzer-beating shot to end the third and get the visitors to within 29-28.
Darien went on a 10-0 run over the course of nearly six minutes to begin the final quarter to take control of the game. Marren hit consecutive shots for a 33-28 lead, Emily Stein added a layup for two of her four points to make it 35-28 and Marren sank a couple of free throws to extend the lead to nine before Bushell capped the run with a basket for a 39-28 lead with 3:28 to go.
Foran finally ended the scoring drought with 2:06 to play, when Jasmin Rodriquez converted a layup, but the Wave players never let their counterparts get too close for comfort.
Darien, however, did miss on consecutive chances in transition to pad the lead in the final minute-plus, and the players and coach Gary Peterson are hoping that they cash in on those opportunities going forward.
"I was shooting well from the outside but inside I was struggling," Bushell said.
Bushell wasn't alone, as several Wave players missed on in-close shots, including layups.
All in all, however, Darien turned in a solid performance.
"There weren't many things that weren't working other than us not making layups," Peterson said. "They always give us an effort. They always give me an effort."
Peterson was pleased with the fact his fairly young team showed a lot of poise in such a competitive game.
"I think we were more poised tonight," Peterson said, comparing his team's approach in its last two games (both losses) prior to this win.
"I think it shows a lot of what we are as a team," Bushell said of Darien's ability to pull through in a tight contest. "This is a big win. It breaks our losing streak."
Peterson noted that the losing streak was only two games and happened to come at the hands of two tough FCIAC foes in Trumbull and St. Joseph.
"We lost to two very good teams so I can't be upset," the coach said. "We're getting more poised with the ball. We're not making too many unforced errors. We're getting much better."
The Wave will look to continue to improve in the tourney finale, but Peterson doesn't expect a win to come easily.
"They're good, they're always good. We always respect New Canaan," he said.