WESTPORT — At the half, Wilbur Cross was trailing Staples by five points. The Governors had been behind for the majority of the game and coach Tyrees Thomas said he challenged his team in the locker room.
“I told the girls at halftime,” he said. “The last 16 minutes of the season. This is it; and they came out on fire.”
Wilbur Cross outscored the Wreckers 40-31 in the second half to complete the 63-59 comeback win in the first round of the Class LL state tournament on Monday night.
A big reason for the Governors’ win came from junior forward Tyannah Tucker, who scored 10 of her team-high 16 points in the second half.
“Our strength is getting down low,” Thomas said. “(Tyannah’s) tough. She’s undersized. But she’s got the heart of a lion.”
Thomas, along with freshman Kandie Everette and junior Kayla Jefferson, led the charge on the block for Wilbur Cross, outrebounding the Wreckers, while continuing to funnel the offense through the paint.
“I feel everybody played tough,” Tucker said. “When they see one person playing tough and everyone is hustling and doing their thing, we just execute and everyone uplifts themselves.”
Staples held on to the lead until the fourth quarter, but the Wreckers offense struggled down the stretch resulting in the loss, coach Paco Fabian said.
“We had a lot of trouble putting the ball in the basket,” he said.
But Fabian said the Wreckers were able to hang around in the fourth, even after losing the lead, because of the efforts of junior Arianna Gerig, who finished with a game-high 27 points, including 16 in the second half.
“I really just knew I had to get into the paint,” Gerig said. “There were a lot of fouls this game so I knew if I could just get to the paint, the foul shots would come and it would mean more points.”
But the Governors were able to seal the game away — despite the efforts of Gerig and the Wreckers for a comeback of their own — by hitting 7 of the 13 from the free-throw line and making it difficult for Staples to string together consecutive scoring possessions down the stretch.
“I told the girls yesterday,” Thomas said. “Defense is going to win a state title.”
ONWARD TO NEW LONDON
With the win, Wilbur Cross moves on to face top-seeded New London in the Class LL tournament second round. The Whalers come into the matchup unbeaten this season.
STILL BUILDING A PROGRAM
Despite the loss, the Wreckers have made it to the state tournament in three out of the four season under Fabian, who said this season was the next step to continuing to create a top team year after year.
“It was a great experience for the kids. We played 10 kids tonight. We’re trying to build a program, not just be a one-year program. Hopefully we’ll get back here next year and do bigger things. It’s a fun group to coach and I think we’ve got big things in the future ahead of us.”
WILBUR CROSS 63, STAPLES 59
WILBUR CROSS 8 15 18 22—63
STAPLES 16 12 16 15—59
WILBUR CROSS (15-6)
Anaija Ricks 4 1-3 9 Tynisha Thomas 0 2-6 2 Tyannah Tucker 8 0-0 16 Jade Hill 0 2-2 2 Tiller McPherson 2 4-6 9 Kayla Jefferson 2 2-2 8 Kandie Everett 3 3-9 9 April Artis 2 0-0 6 Ariaan Moore 0 2-2 0 Dejah Middleton 0 2-2 2 Courtney Maddox 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 18-32 63.
Arianna Gerig 8 5-6 27, Marisa Shorrock 2 1-2 5, Isa Didio 0 0-0 0, Elle Fair 3 3-4 8, Amanda Troelstra 2 0-1 4, Nicole Dienst 2 0-0 5, Sophie Smith 2 1-1 6, Marley Lopez-Paul 1 2-4 4, Kate Rutter 0 0-0 0, Nicole Holmes 0 0-0 0, Abby Carter 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 12-18 59.
3-Pointers: S— Fair, Dienst, Gerig, Shorrock; WC— Jefferson, McPherson, Artis 2