STAMFORD—The mountain was simply too high to climb.
The Danbury girls basketball team rode a 19-3 first quarter to post a 54-41 road triumph over a determined Westhill squad Thursday night at the J. Walter Kennedy Athletic complex.
Danbury (5-5, 3-3 FCIAC) saw its edge close to 44-31 with 4:02 to go. But the Hatters showed poise and made six of eight free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
GOOD TIMES, TOUGH MOMENTS
Danbury has three juniors and two seniors in its starting five.
That was the group that built a 17-0 lead in the game’s opening seven minutes.
However, the Hatters made just six of 14 free throws in the first half for a 32-12 intermission advantage.
Finding depth, however, has been one of the issues for Danbury’s veteran coach Jackie DiNardo.
The Hatters did receive a fine contribution (12 points) from 5-foot-11 sophomore center Tanisha Cunningham off the bench.
“We need young players to fit in. It’s about smart basketball,” DiNardo said. “Learning is a process that can’t be rushed. Before she’s done, Cunningham can be amazing.”
Junior tri-captain Susana Almeida paced Danbury with 15 points including a trio of 3-pointers. Senior tri-captain Emily Grenier had nine points including five of six from the line. Grenier and Cunningham hurt Westhill in the paint.
WESTHILL NEVER SURRENDERS
Westhill (1-8, 1-5 FCIAC) outscored Danbury 29-23 in the second half.
The Vikings received a career-high 21 points from point guard Maddy Bautista, including a trio of 3-pointers.
“Her breakout tonight is a result of the way she has been working and stepping up to run our offense,” said Westhill coach Kat Begetis. “It’s a product of her focus.”
Carline Kollar and Grace Tufano each added five points off the bench. Grace Hansen finished with seven for the Vikings.
Westhill didn’t get many easy baskets and finished just 8 of 15 on free throws.
“Our mistakes are about inexperience, but we always compete,” Begetis said. “The girls aren’t complacent. This season isn’t a wash. We have to move to wanting to win rather than playing not to lose. We have to extend our 26 good minutes into a full 32 good minutes.”
TEAMS CONTINUE TO LEARN
With the balance and youth that runs through many of the FCIAC girls basketball teams this season, everything is earned on the court.
Although down by 20 at intermission, Westhill never gave Danbury a moment of peace in the second half.
“When you have a young group, one task is to find people who play smarter basketball,” Danbury coach DiNardo said. “Give Westhill credit. They played the second half with 100 percent heart. We took things for granted. Having a young group also means that you’re rebuilding how kids shoot free throws. That leads to stretches of misses. The last thing with a young group is they have to understand to get out of the lulls they have to do things together. You need all five. One player can’t do it by herself. So far it seems any girls hoop team can win on a given night this season.”
DANBURY 54, WESTHILL 41
DANBURY (5-5, 3-3 FCIAC)
Catrina Sullivan 2 0-0 4 Emily Grenier 2 5-6 9 Ty’Lynn Ith 3 3-7 9 Sabrina Almeida 1 1-2 3 Tanisha Cunningham 5 2-5 12 Susana Almeida 3 6-9 15 Demia Moore 0 0-0 0 Christine Sangphet 1 0-1 2. Totals: 17 17-30 54.
WESTHILL (1-8, 1-5 FCIAC)
Grace Hansen 3 1-5 7 Maddy Bautista 7 4-4 21 Samantha Johns-Folkes 0 0-0 0 Peyton Hackett 0 1-2 1 Grace Tufano 2 0-0 5 Tamar Bellete 0 0-0 0 Meghan Lavelle 0 0-0 0 Caroline Kollar 1 2-2 5 Candese Osborne 1 0-2 2. Totals: 14 8-15 41.
DANBURY 19 13 10 13—54
WESTHILL 3 9 12 17—41
3-Pointers: D— Susana Almeida 3. W— Bautista 3, Kollar, Tufano