Danbury downs Wilton girls hoop team in FCIAC finals (updated)

Held to five points in the final quarter, the Wilton High girls basketball team fell to Danbury, 41-29, in the FCIAC championship game Thursday night at Fairfield Ludlowe.

It was the third straight conference title for the top-seeded Hatters, who improved to 21-2.

In the opening half, both teams were having problems finding the bottom of the net, as neither lit up the scoreboard. Double-digit turnovers and one-shot possessions kept the game a low-scoring contest.

Wilton, the second seed, had four baskets — including two three-pointers — in the first quarter to lead 10-6 after one. Tournament MVP Allie Smith got a bucket with 4:29 left in the second quarter to tie the game at 10-10 for Danbury. Rachel Gartner then drained a three-pointer to put the Hatters ahead, 13-10.

Wilton, which was making its first appearance in the finals since winning its lone title in 1989, didn’t score its first points of the period until Karen Brosko's hoop with 3:12 to go before halftime. The Warriors  converted just two baskets in the quarter, which ended in a 14-14 tie at the half.

Wilton's Erin Cunningham opened the third quarter with a three-pointer, but Danbury’s Rebecca Gartner answered right back with a trey of her own to keep the score tied. The game was close throughout the third quarter, with Danbury carrying a slim 27-24 lead into the final eight minutes of play.

Danbury then began the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to go ahead, 34-24, and take command of the game. Wilton’s only points in the final period came on a basket from Christina Holmgren and a three-point play by Erica Meyer.

The Danbury players did an excellent job moving without the ball on offense, and when the Wilton defense was a step too slow to react, the Hatters capitalized on the defensive lapses. On the defensive end of the court, Danbury was both guarding the three-point line and denying the ball into the post.

When Wilton got open looks in the paint, many of its shots came up short. Danbury also out-rebounded the Warriors on the defensive glass, with several players crashing the boards.

“We didn’t come out and execute tonight,” said Wilton head coach Jaclyn Porco. “We didn’t come out and play our game; it was clear that they wanted it more. I felt prior to the game that we were ready go and the players seemed loose.

"All we can do is learn from this and move on to states," added Porco. "I told the team to remember how you feel after the game and use that to motivate you to come back next year to win it [the FCIAC title]."

Cunningham had a team-high 10 points for the second-seeded Warriors, who will take a 19-4 record into the Class L state tournament. Meyer added nine points for Wilton.

For Danbury, Rebecca Gartner and Smith finished with 11 points each, while Rachel Gartner had eight points and Kayla Handberry chipped in with seven points.