Girls basketball: Fast start propels Wilton to season-opening win

Senior co-captain Emily Tuin drove the lane for a left-handed layup to kick off the scoring for the season, starting a 13-0 run to open the game for the Wilton High girls basketball team.

The Warriors never looked back as the early run propelled them to a 79-63 win over the Cheshire Rams on Tuesday night in their season opener at Zeoli Fieldhouse.

The Rams, who were held scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the game, stormed back with a 17-8 run to cut the Warriors lead to 21-17 late in the first quarter. Zoe Rappaport drained two free throws to give Wilton a 21-17 lead at the end of one quarter.

After taking Cheshire’s counterpunch, the Warriors opened the second quarter with a 17-2 run, increasing their lead to 21 points at 40-19. Seven different Warriors found the bottom of the net to fuel the run. Rappaport closed out the first half scoring with a reverse layup to give the Warriors a 45-25 halftime lead.

“In past years when a team made a run on us we seemed go into a shell and not respond,” said senior co-captain Claire Gulbin. “But this time we stayed focused and did let it get to us. As a team, we are trusting each other more and not panicking; we played more under control tonight. We were expecting them to come out in zone defense like last year, but when we saw the man-to-man defense we took advantage of it and drove to the basket for the easy layups.”

When asked about Wilton being tagged a preseason FCIAC favorite by a local poll, Gulbin responded, “We’re not really going to focus on that or give it much weight. We have to go out each night and prove ourselves and take it one game at a time.”

Wilton started the third quarter scoring the first six points of the period for its biggest lead of the game at 51-25. But both teams had a productive third quarter, with the Warriors pouring in 21 points, while the Rams netted 19 points. Wilton led 65-44 entering the final quarter.

With the commanding lead, Wilton head coach Rob Coloney was able to clear his bench and those players maintained the home team’s double-digit lead.

“I was very pleased with the way the team played tonight,” said Coloney. “They played under control and didn’t panic when Cheshire made a run. But to me the biggest take-away from the game was the effort and contribution from the non-starters. They know they have to earn their playing time and tonight’s performance showed me that what we did in practice they applied on the court.

“But let’s not forget that they did score 63 points on us, so I hope that serves as motivation to improve on that. Also, this is only the first game of a long season.”

The starting five players for the Warriors chipped in with 49 of the teams 65 points through the first three quarters, before all taking seats.

Gulbin led the way with 13 points, followed by Laura Robertson with 12 points, Elizabeth Breslin with 11 points and Tuin with eight points.

Maddie Burke came off the bench and gave the team a spark with 10 points in the paint. Alexa Hirn also came off the bench to drain two 3-pointers for six points. Senior co-captain Caroline Sweeny, Rappaport, and Isabel Casiraghi each had five points and Kaitlin Reif and Sophia Strazza added two points each to round out the Warriors’ scoring.

Cheshire's Mia Juodaitis led all scorers with 18 points.

The Warriors are back on their home court Friday night at 7 to take on the Stamford Black Knights.