Girls basketball: Warriors set sights on winning title

Over her five years as head coach of the Wilton High girls basketball team, Jaclyn Porco has seen the Warriors take huge steps each year, from five wins her first season to last year’s 20-win season.

This season, her sixth, Wilton is looking to do what eluded it last winter — win the FCIAC championship.

“The girls are looking to hopefully not only make the FCIAC tournament but take it home. That’s our goal,” said Porco, whose team opens the season against a pair of other teams with FCIAC title hopes — at Ridgefield (tonight at 7) and at Danbury (Friday at 7).

“I think Danbury, Greenwich, Ridgefield and Ludlowe will be great games. Darien and Westhill always give us trouble,” she continued. “We’re taking it eight minutes at a time. It’s very important we do that, and very important we play defense and rebound. Defense and rebounding will be huge this year.”

The Warriors are coming off one of the best seasons in program history, in which they went 18-2 during the regular season to earn the top seed in the FCIAC playoffs. Unfortunately, they lost in the semifinals for the second year in a row.

Then, they were bounced in the second round of the Class L state tournament, after losing first-team All-FCIAC point guard Casey Pearsall to a season-ending injury in the first round.

Although Pearsall has graduated, along with third-team All-FCIAC forward Alyssa Malvarosa, Wilton returns a strong core of players from last year’s 20-4 squad, with three returning starters and eight returning varsity players.

It is a team that knows how to win, and has proven that with 36 wins the last two seasons.

Porco said the Warriors were confident, but not over-confident.

“It’s a good confidence,” she said. “The girls are happy we’re being considered a favorite. They know they have to take each game quarter by quarter.”

Replacing Pearsall won’t be easy, as she was the heart and soul of last year’s team, in addition to averaging 11.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 5.2 assists per game. But Porco has total confidence in junior Haley English taking over at point guard. Already a two-year varsity player, and a returning starter, English averaged 6.3 points, 2.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game last season.

The other two returning starters are 6’3” junior center Erica Meyer and 5’10” junior shooting guard Erin Cunningham. Both are coming off outstanding sophomore seasons where they earned All-FCIAC honorable mention recognition.

Meyer, who has already committed to play Division 1 college basketball at Providence, averaged nearly 10 points and nine rebounds per game last year, in addition to nearly three blocked shots per game.

Cunningham was the team’s second-leading scoring at 10 points per game last season, and also averaged 5.3 rebounds per game and 1.3 assists per game.

Two other juniors who saw significant time last year are also back in 5’10” forward Cori Cannavino (2.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg) and guard/forward Makenna Pearsall (1.7 ppg, 3 rpg, 1.7 spg, 1.3 apg); and both will play more prominent roles this season.

Also back are junior small forward Sara Dickinson, sophomore forward Christina Holmgren and sophomore guard Karen Brosko (2.3 ppg).

The key loss on the front line is Malvarosa, who scored 6.4 points per game and was the team’s second-leading rebounder at 6.1 boards per game.

Porco is confident the Warriors can score in the high 40s like last season, so the key will be keeping opposing teams in the low 40s.

All in all, the Warriors should be ready when the season tips off tonight.

“They’re very excited. We haven’t seen them go through the motions. They’ve actually stepped up and are working harder,” said Porco. “We have good height and we’re quick. They have great sportsmanship...and great rapport, and you put it all together with basketball, you have a great team that I think people are going to enjoy watching.”