Girls basketball: WHS holds off Danbury, clinches third seed

wilton basketball
Claire Gulbin blocks a shot by Danbury’s Tanisha Cunningham, while Maddie Burke guards her from the other side, during the Wilton High girls basketball team’s win in Danbury on Monday night. — J.B.Cozens photo

Needing a win to lock up the third seed for the FCIAC playoffs, the Wilton High girls basketball team wasn’t about to take Danbury lightly when the teams met on Monday night in Danbury.

Wilton also knew the Hatters were much better than their 9-9 record would suggest — and that proved to be the case.

The Warriors nearly blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter but hung on through a scary final few minutes for a 48-46 win.

“They’re a very good team. Their record may not show it but this was a good win against a good team,” said senior captain Claire Gulbin. “They’re so much better than their record shows.”

With the win, Wilton improved to 15-4 overall and 12-3 in the FCIAC. Danbury dropped to 9-10 overall and 7-8 in the conference.

Wilton had emerged from a wild third quarter with a 45-38 lead, and pushed the lead to 10 when Emily Tuin scored a conventional three-point play on a pretty give-and-go play with Lauren Robertson with 6:57 left to play.

But the Warriors went ice cold and would go nearly 6:50 without a point.

The Hatters slowly crept back and cut the lead to 48-46 with three minutes left when Susana Almeida drained a long-range 3-pointer.

The Hatters had chances to tie or take the lead but missed a 3-pointer and turned the ball over on a traveling call, and then missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw in the final minute.

Wilton held the ball until Gulbin was fouled and hit a pair of free throws with 8.8 seconds left for a 50-46 lead.

“I’m really proud of our girls, the way our team stayed resilient. I thought they played very physical. They didn’t get negative at any point,” said Wilton head coach Rob Coloney. “Danbury’s really good. A lot of people don’t give them enough respect because they look at the record. The team’s played a ton of games decided by five points or less Those two twins (Susana and Sabrina Almeida) are unbelievable athletes and they’re only juniors, and they’re big in the middle. They absolutely torched us tonight. I thought they killed us on second-chance points.”

Sophomore center Tanisha Cunningham in particular dominated the Warriors inside, finishing with 12 points and 17 rebounds for the Hatters.

Danbury had a 40-25 rebounding edge.

Wilton was led by the three senior captains, who all scored in double figures — Caroline Sweeney (11 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots), Gulbin (10 points, five rebounds) and Emily Tuin (10 points).

Elizabeth Breslin played a great game at the top of the Wilton zone, finishing the game with nine points, five steals and three assists; and Roberton played tough inside against taller opponents, finishing with four points, three rebounds and two steals.

Zoe Rappaport gave Wilton a big lift off the bench in the second quarter with five points, two rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot, while Maddie Burke added one point.

Robertson and Gulbin also had assists.

Gulbin had a pair of 3-pointers for Wilton, with one each by Sweeny, Tuin and Rappaport.

Danbury was led by Susana Almeida with 14 points, Cunningham with 12 points, Ty’Lynn Ith with nine points and Emily Grenier with six points. Sabrina Almeida added four points.

Wilton grabbed a 9-2 lead in the first quarter on consecutive 3-pointers by Sweeny, Gulbin and Tuin. Down 15-5, the Hatter closed out the final minute of the period with a 5-0 run, and then scored the first four points of the second quarter to cut the lead to 15-14.

The Warriors responded with an 8-0 run to lead by nine, and Danbury never got closer than four until the final minutes.

“I think the difference was our resilience. We’ve won a couple of close games this year and last year that’s something we never would have done,” said Gulbin. “We have experience now. What it comes down to is we were able to keep our composure, hold the ball and hit free throws.”

The Warriors were 11-for-16 at the line for the game.

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