WOODBRIDGE — Amity sophomore Elise Graham is well aware of her team’s goal — to be playing at the Mohegan Sun Arena the final weekend of the season.
Graham did her part, scoring 19 points, including 15 in the pivotal second and third quarters, as No. 5 Amity defeated No. 28 Darien 57-39 in the opening round of the CIAC Class LL state tournament at Amity High Monday night.
“We started to attack more,” Graham said of the second and third quarters. “We were able to finish. We got some layups and we had a lot of assists.”
The Spartans, who had 18 assists as a team in the game, trailed early in the contest by three points, but a 6-0 run on baskets by Mikaila Schmitt, Kathleen Feng and Chloe Brinton, gave Amity the lead for good at 12-9 in the final 2 minutes of the opening quarter.
Molly Ronan took advantage of Amity’s perfect ball movement to score with 7 seconds left in the opening quarter, starting a 13-0 run that ran into the second quarter.
The run included a 3-pointer by Brinton for a 17-11 advantage and a basket by Graham with 3:13 left in the first half for a 25-11 lead. Darien’s only points of the quarter came on a 3-pointer by Kelly Karczewski before Graham and Janae Graham hit baskets for a 29-14 halftime lead.
“In games like this, we are going to need every person,” Brinton said after finishing with seven points and eight assists. “We moved the ball well tonight. That was very important.”
With a 15-point lead to start the second half, Elise Graham helped her team put the game away. She hit a bucket and free throw on the first possession of the second half to extend the lead to 32-14, before following a 3-pointer by Karczewski with another bucket.
By the time Elise Graham drained her ninth point of the third quarter, Amity held a 42-24 advantage and the Spartans never looked back.
“It is always good to get off to a good start,” Amity coach Michelle Martinik said after her team improved to 20-3. “If you lose, you are done. We came out and played hard. We just really wanted to bring it tonight.
“I thought we did a nice job as a team. That’s how we are going to win. We win when the team plays well. We really have never been about an individual effort. It is when we play well as a team. That is how it has always been.”
The Blue Wave (9-12) never quit in the fourth quarter, putting a scare into the Spartans when a 3-pointer by Avery Maley got Darien within 42-31 in the opening minute.
“They scored and we were in a rut,” Darien coach Katie Lauten said of the second quarter. “That happens. It changed the game around. We were not able to come back from it.
“We could not put the ball in the hoop. We had the looks. They just did not fall.”
That early fourth quarter momentum faded when Amity continued to move the ball inside, finding Ronan for a bucket and free throw and another bucket by Elise Graham for a 49-32 lead.
Emily Stein led Darien with 16 points, while Karczewski had 15.
Ronan finished with 11 points for the Spartans, while Schmitt had eight points and Janae Graham added six.
AMITY 57, DARIEN 39
Darien 11 3 12 13 – 39
Amity 14 15 13 15 – 57
Kaeleigh Morrill 1 2-2 4, Emily Coyle 0 1-2 1, Emily Stein 6 2-6 16, Avery Maley 1 0-0 3, Kelly Karczewski 6 0-0 15. Totals: 14 5-10 39
Janae Graham 3 0-0 6, Chloe Brinton 3 0-0 7, Elise Graham 9 1-2 19, Mikaila Schmitt 3 2-2 8, Molly Ronan 5 1-1 11, Amanda Vecchio 1 0-0 2, Kathleen Feng 1 0-0 2, Alexa Gibbs 1 0-0 2. Totals: 26 4-5 57
3-point goals: Darien 6 (Stein 2, Maley 1, Karczewski 3); Amity 1 (Brinton 1); Records: Darien 9-12; Amity 20-3