Girls basketball: Warriors hold off New Canaan, 37-32

For the second straight game, the Wilton High girls basketball team had a weak performance on the offensive end of the court. But the combination of the team’s defensive play and an unfortunate injury to the opponent’s top scorer was enough for the Warriors to come away with a 37-32 win over the New Canaan Rams Friday night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

New Canaan entered into the game winless with a 0-8 record and was coming off a loss to Westhill Thursday night. The Rams blew a 15-point fourth quarter lead against the Vikings and was looking to bounce back.

Just 1:30 into the game their leading scorer, senior Campbell Armstrong, went down with an ankle injury. Campbell had recorded the Rams’ first points of the game when she hit a 3-pointer from the wing, but it would be her only contribution as the injury sidelined her for the rest of the game.

New Canaan had two first-quarter leads at 5-3 and 7-5, but the Warriors closed out the quarter by draining three 3-pointers to end the period ahead 14-7. Co-captain Claire Gulbin hit back-to-back three’s and Anna Cocoros added the third. Gulbin had a total of three 3-pointers in the period.

Co-captain Caroline Sweeny drove to the basket for a hoop to open the second quarter scoring, while fellow co-captain Emily Tuin ended the scoring in the period by going four-for-four from the free-throw line, giving the home team a nine-point halftime lead at 22-13.

The Warriors didn’t convert the Rams’ 13 first-half turnovers into points, keeping the game within reach of their opponent. Wilton had some looks at the basket and easy layup chances, but came away empty.

On the other end of the court, the Warriors played tough man-to man defense, forcing the Rams into long possessions on offense, which they too came away with nothing for their effort. “We clearly got away from our game plan and started to play a pickup basketball game style and that helped them stay in the game,” said Wilton head coach Rob Coloney. “Of course I’m glad we came away with a win, but we need to get more out of our team on the floor to be competitive against the teams in this league. Our effort tonight is not going to cut it against other teams on our schedule. We have a lot of things we need to focus on. We have several very smart players on this team. They just have to come out and want to be successful on the court, erase their self-doubt, be hungry to win, and want to win as bad as the coaching staff wants to win.”

Coloney went on to say, “I’ve been around most of these players since they played in eighth grade and coaching them is very personal to me. Not only do I want them to succeed on the court, I want them to be successful in life.”

In the third quarter, the Warriors outscored the Rams 9-4 to increase their lead to 14 points, 31-17. Gulbin scored five straight points for Wilton in the period to again carry her team.

Fourth-quarter buckets by Elizabeth Breslin and Sweeny put the Warriors ahead 35-20 for their largest lead of the night. But then the wheels started coming off the Warriors’ bus. Wilton committed eight turnovers in the final quarter, which the Rams converted into a 10-0 run. Wilton had only turned the ball over six times in the first three quarters. The Rams run closed the Wilton lead to five at 35-30 with under two minutes to play.

Gulbin and Breslin stopped the bleeding by each going one-for-two from the foul line to give the Warriors the win. New Canaan sunk a basket as the game clock expired for the 37-32 final.

The win puts the Warriors record above .500 at 4-3, while the Rams drop to 0-9.

Gulbin led the Warriors with 15 points. Breslin had five points, and Sweeny, Meaghan Downey and Tuin each added four points.

New Canaan was led by Leigh Charlton, who finished with eight points.