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STAMFORD >> Saturday afternoon at Westhill High, the two-time defending FCIAC girls’ basketball champion Danbury made easy work of No. 8 Trumbull, as they started tournament play with a 48-28 win in quarterfinal action.
Semifinal action will start on Tuesday at Ludlowe.
Fast start propels Wilton to win over Ludlowe
It was hard for Fairfield Ludlowe girls’ basketball head coach Sarah Huntington to pinpoint the exact reason for the sudden down spiral that occurred Saturday afternoon against Wilton.
Maybe it was nerves; maybe it was Wilton playing that much better. But for whatever reason the second-seeded Warriors used a sound and steady game plan to defeat No. 7 Ludlowe 48-29, at Westhill to advance to the FCIAC semifinals on Tuesday against No. 6 Greenwich at 6 p.m.
“We had a terrible offensive night,” Huntington said. “We just couldn’t buy a basket, (we) missed a bunch of free throws, missed a ton of layups. I don’t know. We just had a bad night.”
Playing in their first FCIAC Tournament in Huntington’s fourth year at the helm, the Falcons fell behind 5-0 early and never recovered. The Warriors built a 13-5 lead with a stout and pressure-filled defense and rode the inside play of Erica Meyer to go up 27-12 the half.
“The mentality was, get them early,” Wilton head coach Jaclyn Porco said.
Erin Cunningham led the way for Wilton with 15 points, while Meyer finished with 11.
Ludlowe fell victim to its own game as they shot 8-of-16 from the free-throw line, and missed open opportunities through the contest.
“They had a great night,” Huntington said. “Erica Meyer…played like she is capable of playing. We just beat ourselves tonight.”
It was complete difference to what Ludlowe displayed on Feb. 17, when they last faced Wilton, winning 49-46.
“Well, last time, they shots lights out,” Porco said.
Wilton made it a point to key in on Ludlowe guard Caroline Pangallo, as they used two defenders throughout, switching on and off on Pangallo.
“Making her work, making her use her legs,” Porco said of their plan on Pangallo.
Ludlowe found a little rhythm in the second half when Meyer was on the bench, but Wilton seemed to have an answer, whether a layup or open jumper to counter.
Ludlowe was paced by Pangallo’s eight points.
The Falcons will now regroup and prepare for the Class LL State Tournament. Last season they advanced to the second round where they lost to Trumbull.
“We’re definitely going to focus on offensive sets,” Huntington said.
England sends Stamford past Warde, into semis
The Fairfield Warde girls’ basketball team had a pretty good plan for stopping Stamford guard Tiana England Saturday evening in the FCIAC quarterfinals. The problem was nobody told England.
The speedy and crafty sophomore sliced and diced her way through a strong and intense Mustang defense, scoring and dishing off at will, as she helped break open a close game in the second half, and send No. 4 Stamford to the 57-36 victory over No. 5 Warde to advance to the FCIAC semifinals.
Stamford will face No. 1 Danbury at Ludlowe on Tuesday at 7:45 p.m.
“They (Warde) decided to send two people on her (England) in the backcourt, so she just reversed it to Kelsey (Santagata),” Stamford head coach Diane Burns said. “She just took it and went.”
Added Warde head coach Dave Danko: “We executed our game plan, it was a battle. We turned them over; we did things that we were supposed to do. But they seized opportunities on us, they capitalized. We have a special girl (England) in our league.”
After a very physical and exhausting first half that saw Stamford go up by just six points, England and the Black Knights relied upon a smooth transition game that outscored Warde 19-7 in the third quarter. England finished with a game-high 18 points, 11 of those coming in the final two quarters. Santagata added 12, while Camry Evans chipped in 10.
“She worked so hard and she rose to the occasion,” Danko said of England.
Warde didn’t help its cause as they had a chance to stay in the game, but Stamford started the third quarter on a 4-0 run and never looked back. The Mustangs missed a few offensive opportunities at the basket as they scored just 16 points in the second half as Stamford netted 31.
“They (Warde) represented that uniform very well tonight,” Danko said. “And unfortunately in basketball you got to put the ball in the hole.”
The Mustangs were paced by senior Kaitlin McKenna and Lejla Markovic who each scored seven points.
Warde will prepare and focus on the Class LL State Tournament.