DANBURY — The 2021 girls basketball season has been abnormal across the board, but few teams have dealt with the amount of turbulence Danbury has.
Entering the FCIAC Tournament as the No. 7 seed, Danbury is a sleeper to make a legitimate run at the title.
The team advanced to the second-round after taking care of No. 10 New Canaan 52-39 Wednesday evening, just five days after returning from a two-week quarantine.
Battling through a delayed start as well as the quarantine, Danbury has spent significantly less time on the court than most teams.
“I hate saying this because I hate making excuses, but most of the teams started on January 19th,” Danbury coach Jackie DiNardo said. “We didn’t get to start until February 1. Those teams had two weeks up practice and some even had games under their belt. We didn’t have anything. I walked into that first game basically teaching as well as trying to play a game.”
The delay may have been the cause of Danbury’s lackluster 1-3 start after a one-point loss to Staples on opening day and a 41-32 loss to Ludlowe days later.
The Hatters won their first game of the season against Darien, but lost a five-point contest against Ridgefield the next time out.
Danbury proceeded to go on an unconventional six game winning streak over the following weeks.
After a resounding 70-37 victory over Norwalk to improve to 2-3 the season was halted, at least for the original varsity roster.
“We had to go into quarantine and that was another two weeks off,” DiNardo said. “The Freshman and JV team subbed in for the Varsity team when they were in quarantine.”
During the two weeks, the JV and Freshman subs played three games, facing off against Harding, Bassick and McMahon.
“The mindset was who cares if we lose at that point, it’s good experience,” DiNardo said. “They played three ballgames and they went 3-0. Freshman guard Cameron Froehlich scored 60 points in those games. It was crazy, they were a legitimate JV team winning varsity games.”
Froehlich and the rest of the replacements were relieved of their duties when the original varsity players were cleared from quarantine.
“When they came back, we went into a four day stretch with games against New Canaan and Stamford before getting a practice in and playing Trumbull,” DiNardo said. “It was three games in four days right away.”
Without having practiced in two weeks, the Hatters picked up where their understudies left off with back-to-back 20-point victories over New Canaan and Stamford.
The winning streak came to an end on the final game of the regular season to Trumbull as Danbury finished with a 7-4 record entering the tournament.
The first-round matchup against New Canaan was the fourth game in six days since returning from quarantine, but it didn’t show.
Danbury jumped ahead to a 16-0 lead in the first two quarters and led 26-11 at halftime.
In the third quarter New Canaan battled back, outscoring Danbury 22-11 to make it a four-point game. The Rams hit five 3-pointers in the third quarter — two by Meghan Driscoll, two by Quinn McKiernan and one by Maddie Donaldson.
“They came in and they had a strategy, they were going to double team Tianna (Rogers) and Kianna (Perry) so that kind of took us out of our game a little bit,” DiNardo said. “I had to do something different, I went into a press which I never do. I wanted to take the momentum away from them. I didn’t want a foul, I didn’t care if we got a steal, I just wanted us to focus on pressing them rather than who was going to shoot.”
The adjustment worked as the Hatters went on a 15-0 run in the final quarter, burying any doubts and cruising to the 52-39 victory.
Kianna Perry led Danbury in scoring with 13 points and Viviana Flores finished right behind her with 12 of her own.
Chloe Perreault contributed eight points and racked up an impressive 17 rebounds. For New Canaan, Donaldson netted 17 points, followed by nine from Driscoll and eight from McKiernan.
Danbury will take on No. 2 Staples on Saturday in the quarterfinal round. It will be the second time the teams face off this season after Staples’ one point victory on opening day back on Feb. 12th.