Girls basketball: A special group looks to go out on high note
If anyone knows how special this year’s seniors are, it would be Wilton High girls basketball head coach Rob Coloney.
His first coaching stint in Wilton came when he coached them on the fifth grade level, and the special bond was rekindled as the group moved to the varsity ranks the last two or three years.
It’s a group, he said, that has a love for the game of basketball that is unmatched — and one they’ve shared over many years.
“They’ve been playing basketball together for a long time. I’m really excited to spend the next four months with the girls and enjoy our time together,” Coloney said. “They love being in the gym. Anytime you have a group of kids that loves the game, you’re lucky — and we have that.”
That kind of devotion, not to mention the talent and experience Wilton has coming back, suggests that the Warriors will put last year’s disappointing 12-10 campaign behind them.
But to do that, Coloney said, the players shouldn’t look too far ahead, either.
“I think the focus is to try to shrink the game down and shrink the season down, and focus on every single possession and every game, and on what we can do better,” said Coloney. “If we can focus on every possession and every game, and take each game like it’s the most important game, whether the opponent is 10-0 or 0-10 … then we’ll be in a good position at the end of the year.”
Wilton opens the season Tuesday at home (6) against Cheshire, before a big early-season FCIAC game on Friday night at home against Stamford.
Experience won’t be a problem, as five of the team’s top six players return from a year ago — five players that account for 80% of the team’s points. The Warriors are not tall, with only two players taller than 5’9”, but they are athletic and quick.
Anchoring the team are the three senior captains, guards Glaire Gulbin and Emily Tuin and forward/guard Caroline Sweeny. All three were captains last year, too,
“It’s going to start with the three captains. These three girls, we’re going to lean a lot on their experience and leadership,” said Coloney.
Gulbin, a four-year varsity player, was the team’s top player last year, and a second-team all-FCIAC pick, after averaging 14.5 points per game. She led the team in 3-pointers with 55, and also averaged 3.1 rebounds, two assists, and 1.8 steals per game.
Wilton relied heavily on Gulbin last year, and Coloney is looking for other players to step up offensively this season.
“We have some weapons when they want to be weapons. If they step up, it will ease the burden on Claire a little bit,” he said.
Tuin is another four-year varsity player who Coloney looks for to have a breakout season. Last year she was third on the team in scoring (7 ppg) and led the team in assists (2.5 apg). She also averaged 4.3 rebounds and two steals per game.
Sweeny, the team’s tallest player at 6’0”, is a three-year varsity player who is a versatile offensive threat who can play the post and shoot the 3-pointer. She was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (7.5 ppg) and led the team in rebounds (7.7 rpg) and blocked shots (2.3 bpg), in addition to two assists and one steal per game.
Two other returning seniors — forwards Liz Breslin and Lauren Robertson — round out the starting lineup. Breslin was a starter a year ago, averaging 5.7 points per game and leading the team in steals with 53 (2.4 per game), along with four rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. Robertson came back from an ACL injury that sidelined her two years ago and provided a big boost off the bench, averaging 5.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Her tenacity under the basket makes her play well above her height (5’9”).
The team also returns senior guard/forward Iso Casiraghi, who saw action in 20 of 22 games last year, and senior guard/forward Alexa Him, who played in 19 games. Both averaged about a point per game.
Junior guard Kaitlin Reif, who saw action in 20 games and averaged 1.3 points per game, also returns.
Other returning varsity players are junior forward Maddie Burke and sophomore guards Zoe Rappaport and Nancy Lynch.
The roster this season was expanded to 13 players to make room for two players who came out for the basketball team for the first time — 5’11” senior forward Taylor Floyd and junior guard/forward Sophia Strazza.
While last year’s team just missed out on the FCIAC playoffs, it was in many of its games against top teams, including an overtime loss to the state’s top-rated team, Trumbull. Coloney said the key this year is to play the full 32 minutes and hold on to games when the Warriors have the lead.
“They had some really good game experiences the last two years, and saw how we let leads slip away. It’s still in their minds. I don’t want that to be a negative thing,” he said. “The biggest thing is staying focused and controlling the things we can control. If we make mistakes, let’s learn from them.
“Their goal is to leave it all out there, and so far that’s kind of been our M.O.,” he continued. “The game is a game of runs, and we want to go on the last one.”