STAMFORD — It was a battle where both sides were pleased with the way they are heading into the playoffs.
The youthful Danbury girls basketball team displayed enough character to defeat an injury-challenged Stamford squad, 42-38 in overtime in the FCIAC regular-season finale Wednesday night at Paul Kuczo Memorial Gym.
The win means Danbury (16-4, 13-3 FCIAC) holds on to the No. 2 league playoff seed heading into Saturday’s FCIAC quarterfinals at Staples.
The Hatters will face No. 7 seed Ridgefield at 2 p.m. at Staples. Danbury defeated Ridgefield, 58-50, back on Dec. 23 at home.
“Keeping the No. 2 seed (via tiebreaker criteria as Danbury topped No. 3 seed Trumbull in the regular season) was very important to us,” said Danbury’s veteran coach Jackie DiNardo. “The kids needed the No. 2 seed to get credit for a wonderful regular season. It is an accomplishment that means the world to our young group.”
Danbury’s starting five — consisting of three sophomores, one junior and one senior — jumped out to a 7-0 edge and a 19-13 lead after one quarter.
From there, it was a defensive struggle as Stamford — down an injured trio from its original top seven rotation — kept chipping away.
The teams scored a combined seven points in the second period and 13 in the third quarter as Danbury clung to a 27-25 advantage.
Danbury — which closed out the regular season 9-1 since January 24 — built a 32-25 cushion with 5:59 to go on an old-school three-point play by Tianna Rogers (game-high 15 points).
However, an offensive foul call nullifying another Hatters basket produced two technical foul free throws and a 3-pointer beyond the arc on the ensuing possession by Stamford senior Megan Landsiedel (team-high 12 points) for 32-30 with 5:00 left.
Stamford (15-5, 11-5 FCIAC) sent the contest into overtime at 34-34 despite being just 4-for-4 overall at the foul line and making only one 3-pointer after the first period.
The Black Knights will be the No. 6 FCIAC playoff seed and meet No. 3 seed Trumbull in Saturday’s noon quarterfinal at Staples. Stamford lost 46-41 to Trumbull back on Jan. 21.
Although missing the front end of a pair of one-and-ones early in the four-minute overtime, sophomores Chloe Perreault (12 points) and Kianna Perry (10 points) each made two free throws in the final 17 seconds to secure the triumph for Danbury.
“The girls realized a lot was at stake. We had a lot of shots come up short,” DiNardo said. “Even though they had three girls out injured, Stamford never quit. They did a great job defensively on us.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Danbury’s Tianna Rogers: The junior center scored a host of second-chance points on offensive rebounds and was a force on the defensive backboard as well.
“I’m so proud how our group fought and battled to get the game to overtime,” said Stamford’s veteran coach Diane Burns. “It was exciting to see the girls play like a team and work so hard together. Losses always hurt. But our effort was a big step in the right direction. I hope our kids understand they can compete with anybody in the playoffs.”