NEW CANAAN — Three games into the new girls basketball season, the Danbury Hatters were still searching for their first victory. True, those games were against strong opponents, but a goose egg in the win column isn’t the best feeling.
Five games and five wins later, things are looking up for the Hatters,
Danbury closed out the first half with a 12-0 run and then held off a solid challenge in the final two quarters to defeat the New Canaan Rams 44-32, Thursday night at New Canaan High School.
The win boosted the Hatters’ records to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the FCIAC, as they’ve bounced back from the early defeats.
“It’s amazing because they’ve worked harder in practice after those games,” head coach Jackie DiNardo said. “They were looking at it and going ‘Oh my God, we’re 0-3. What are we, a bunch of losers?’ Now, they really hate losing so much, that they’re playing. We get sloppy sometimes, but a lot of that is me putting a lot of kids in there to try and get some balance out there. They’re ready for that.”
For the Rams (3-4 overall, 2-3 FCIAC), the second half was better than the first, as they built off of their defense and outscored Danbury 23-16. The end result was still a loss, but with some positives to take away.
“I’m happy with the effort,” New Canaan head coach John Winchester said. “If they had played the second half the way they played the first, I wouldn’t have been happy, but they finished the game. That’s what you have to do because the game is never over.”
The Hatters had a solid game from senior co-captain and point guard Susana Almeida, who collected a game-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds.
Danbury had a big advantage on the boards, led by junior Tanisha Cunningham’s 14 rebounds. Sophomore Tianna Rogers had 11 points and eight rebounds, senior co-captain Sabrina Almeida had seven points, and senior co-captain Ty’Lynn Ith had seven rebounds.
For New Canaan, junior Katie Dunn scored a team-best 11 points, nine of which came in the second half. Sophomore Quinn McKiernan had nine points and five rebounds, and junior Jane Charlton had eight points and five rebounds.
Danbury led 12-4 after the first quarter, but despite New Canaan’s struggles, the margin was still single digits with about four minutes to play in the second. The Hatters revved up the engines and scored the final 12 points of the half, turning a 16-9 edge into a 28-9 advantage. Six players scored during that run.
“I had my experience in, my upperclassmen, and they were flowing, they were moving,” DiNardo said. “It was all in synch. We have be ready to put subs in and they’ve got to go in without making too much of a change to that flow. Right now, it’s making a little difference, but that’s just me trying to get younger kids experience.”
The Rams, however, didn’t pack it in and started the third quarter with a 9-3 run which cut the deficit to 13 points.
“At halftime, I let them know this game ain’t over,” Winchester said. “Let’s play New Canaan basketball and pressure the ball. When we scored, we picked it up full court and we attacked. We were the aggressors and that’s when we started changing the game and playing better.”
The margin was down to nine at 34-25 with five minutes to play when Susana Almeida nailed a three-point basket. After the Rams’ Charlton hit for for two, Rogers hit two free throws and Almeida drained another three for a 39-27 lead which all but sealed the win.
“That was big for her,” DiNardo said of Almeida’s two baskets. “She was having a little bit of a rough game, so for her to hit those was great for her confidence. She’s my quarterback, so she’s got to feel good out there and she’s got to do her job, and she does, so I’m proud of her.”
New Canaan may have dropped the game, but with three wins in the book, they’re just one victory away from matching last year’s win total.
“They had the same voice here for 10 years with Kim (Palmer) and Kim and I had a good relationship for the last five years since I’ve been in New Canaan,” Winchester said “I just had to change the voice and start everything from defense. We’ve got good athletes, and the easiest way for us to turn the program around is to anchor everything off defense and build from there. The girls have bought in.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Susana Almeida, Danbury. Almeida ran the show from point guard and netted a game-best 17 points, including six on a pair of late three-pointers. She also reeled in six rebounds.
“I tried to do a lot of subbing tonight. The kids on the bench have got to be ready to go out there and give the kids on the floor a break so they’re fresh to start the next quarter.” – Danbury head coach Jackie DiNardo
DANBURY 44, NEW CANAAN 32
Danbury 12 16 4 12 – 44
New Canaan 4 5 9 14 – 32
Danbury: Susana Almeida 7 0-0 17, Tiana Rogers 4 3-7 11, Sabrina Almeida 2 2-2 7, Ty’Lynn Ith 2 0-0 4, Chloe Perreault 1 1-2 3, Viviana Flores 0 2-2 2, Iyanna Neal 0 0-2 0, Tanisha Cunningham 0 0-3 0. Totals 16 8-18 44
NC: Katie Dunn 4 0-0 11, Quinn McKiernan 3 2-5 9, Jane Charlton 4 0-4 8, Katherine Lisecky 1 0-0 2, Liz DeMarino 1 0-0 2, Emily Shizari 0 0-0 0, Catherine Bopp 0 0-0 0, Riana Afshar 0 0-0 0, Kearney McKiernan 0 0-0 0, Meghan Driscoll 0 0-0 0, Caity Blair 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 2-9 32
3-pointers: D – Su. Almedia 3, Sa. Almedia; NC – Dunn 3, Q. McKiernan