After a loss opening night to Bethel, the Staples girls basketball team caught fire, winning eight in a row until losing 44-40 to Trumbull, Friday night.
The game before Trumbull, the Wreckers beat No. 3 Norwalk 43-25, snapping the Bears’ FCIAC and home-court winning streaks.
Staples had not beaten Norwalk since December of 2014. Staples has not beaten Trumbull since January of 2010.
Norwalk and Trumbull have been the two teams Staples has struggled with the last few seasons as it attempts to climb from the middle of the FCIAC pack to a top contender.
“Norwalk and Trumbull the last few years have been that hump we couldn’t get over,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said. “Beating Norwalk gives us that confidence that we can play with the best teams. We’ve said it, and we believe in our locker room, that we are one of the best. (the win over Norwalk) made us realize we can beat these teams.”
Staples was 12-7 in 2017-18 and 14-6 last season. The Wreckers hope to improve again this year and claim a top-four seed in the FCIAC tournament.
The key for the Wreckers has been the ability to get quality performances out of multiple players and different players every night.
“We have great depth. We have been playing more girls than ever before.” Fabian said. “Because of that, we feel comfortable rotating in eight or nine girls and the level does not drop off when we go to our bench. We feel like we have the strongest bench in the state.”
Arianna Gerig is a 6-foot forward, but is athletic as any guard. The senior can go inside and score, handle the ball in transition and runs the floor and fills lanes as well as any player in the FCIAC.
Gerig is one of five seniors on the roster, leading an experienced group of upperclassmen.
She is joined in the starting five by seniors Abigail Carter, Marisa Shorrock and Kathleen Cozzi and junior Nicole Holmes.
The players off the bench have been willing to do their jobs and put the team first.
“We have girls who are straight shooters, straight rebounders and drivers. They fill their roles and they are clicking,” Fabian said. “(Against Norwalk) I played a sophomore (Jen Westphal) just to go in and get rebounds in the fourth quarter. She really has not played that much this season, but she went in and did her job.”
With games against Norwalk and Trumbull complete, at least until the FCIAC and Class LL tournaments, the Wreckers can focus on the rest of their FCIAC schedule.
Despite coming into the season with a very young group, the majority freshmen and sophomores, West Haven head coach Jessica Moriarty knew there was talent.
However, she was realistic knowing her players would have to adjust to the pace of the game at the varsity level.
Last week, West Haven delivered a 36-32 win at Foran, pushing its record to 5-4.
“We started out doing well (4-1) and then hit a bit of a wall. We are trying now to make a turn, get our heads on straight, and continue playing well,” said Moriarty, in her seventh season. “In the past we would always struggle scoring and would beg them to shoot. Now it is the opposite. They are a confident group, they want to score, and they want to play well together.”
Senior Brianna Stephenson, who hit the game-clinching free throw in the win over Foran, junior point guard Sarah Evangelista, sophomore Tenique Gates and freshmen Amani Abuhatab and Kassidy Carrano make up the starting five.
Familiarity has helped the Westies.
“They are used to playing together,” said Moriarty. “They’ve played together for a long time (youth, rec travel and AAU), where they were able to control the tempo and could just pressure kids. And now the kids they are playing are faster and stronger. They are adjusting to that now in half-court transition.”
Game on the line, who would they go to?
“Amani Abuhatab, one of our freshmen,” Moriarty said. “She has been dominating and playing very well. But we are confident in them all to take a big shot. The best thing is that they want that role. They want the ball in their hands. That is an aspect of the game that you can’t teach.”
West Haven will visit Sheehan (7-2) on Wednesday.
Amity senior Jillian Martin became the 13th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points with her free throw in the first quarter against Hillhouse last week. She finished with 18 points.
— GameTimeCT (@GameTimeCT) January 18, 2020
Newington’s Ashanti Frazier scored 24 points in a 50-49 win over previously unbeaten East Catholic. In the second quarter, the senor guard tallied her 1,000th career point.
— Ryan Chichester (@ryanchichester1) January 17, 2020