WILTON >> A regular season-ending battle of 16-1 girls basketball teams with the top seed in the FCIAC Tournament on the line went to the Wilton Warriors on Wednesday night. Wilton seized early control and defeated the visiting Fairfield Warde Mustangs 72-50.
Warde fell behind 40-21 at halftime as the Warriors applied a full-court press to create turnovers, and moved the ball around well to set up open shots on the offensive end.
Led by five seniors, the Warriors perhaps had the advantage in experience and comfort level over the young Mustangs, who have just one senior, Jacqui Lanese.
“Their seniors played extremely well,” said Warde head coach Dave Danko, adding that final-year high school athletes possess a little more experience and understanding of how to handle situations that pays off in big games.
Wilton’s 6-foot-3 Erica Meyer got to rebounds at both ends, scored points, and altered numerous Warde chances in the paint. Fellow Warrior senior Erin Cunningham scored 19 points, and senior Haley English and junior Christina Holmgren both dropped in 16.
Warde got a dozen points each from Shania Osborne and Sarah Cotto, 10 points from Daja Polk, eight points from Leja Markovic, five from Illiana Krasniqi, and three from Olivia Parisi.
Wilton Coach Jaclyn Porco had plenty of praise for the Mustangs. Porco said she thought there were times throughout the game in which, as the put it, if the scoreboard were removed from the field house fans might not have known which team was winning.
“Shots didn’t fall but Wilton, by far, was the best team,” said Danko, adding that the team’s depth is a lot to try to overcome should the teams meet again the FCIAC finals.
“We’ve got to make adjustments. We’ve got to handle their pressure a little better,” the Warde coach noted.
Lanese acknowledges that the Mustangs would like a chance at redemption.
“We’re looking forward to the playoffs and we’re hoping to play Wilton again,” Lanese said.
The only way the two teams can have a rematch is if they both win quarterfinal- and semifinal-round games to get to the championship round. Warde’s first order of business is Saturday’s opener against St. Joseph of Trumbull.
Danko took some positives signs from the way his team fought until the finish; the Mustangs basically traded baskets with the Warriors throughout the entire second half, but never managed to get closer than to within 16 points.
“In the second half they locked down, and they were more aggressive to the basket,” Danko said of his players. “We got more physical.”