Girls basketball: Wilton advances in Class LL playoffs

The Wilton High girls basketball team used a big second-half performance to pull away from the East Hartford Hornets in a Class LL state tournament qualifying game on Friday night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

The score was tied at 21-21 at halftime, but that quickly changed after the break as the Warriors heeded the call of their coach and outscored the Hornets 36-16 in the second half for the 57-37 win.

Wilton (12-9), seeded 30th, will now travel to New London (18-2) to take on the third-seeded Whalers on Tuesday night in New London.

“Yes I was a little animated in my halftime message to the team, as I felt they needed a strong talking to,” said Wilton head coach Rob Coloney. “I didn’t want our two seniors to go down with a loss and end their playing days without a complete team effort. They needed a wake-up call. And as you saw everything clicked in the second half. I’m proud of the way they responded to my talk and the effort they gave me in the second half. We pressed the ball a lot more in the second half and created turnovers and we converted them into points.”

Wilton had scrimmaged East Hartford in the preseason, so Coloney knew that they were quick and played a physical style of baseball. The Hornets also only suited up nine players for the game, so trying to get them in foul trouble was on Coloney’s mind.

First-half action saw both teams have problems putting the ball in the hoop and the committed as many turnovers as they scored points. Wilton biggest lead was 7-2 early in the first quarter after Claire Gulbin drained a 3-pointer. The Hornets led at the end of one 11-10, as Tiana Asberry hit a bucket in the closing seconds of the quarter.

Wilton held the lead for most of the second quarter, but that lead was never bigger than three points. Again a basket by the Hornets’ Sha’La Jones just before the buzzer tied the score at 21-21.

The Warriors came out of the locker room firing away, scoring seven points in the first 40 seconds of the third quarter. Wilton outscored the Hornets 13-5 in the third to take a 34-26 lead into the final quarter. East Hartford had only one field goal in the quarter.

The Warriors made sure the Hornets weren’t going to mount a comeback, as Wilton was quick out of the gate again in the fourth quarter. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Caroline Sweeny and Gulbin to start the quarter, followed by a bucket by Meaghan Downey, upped the Warriors lead to 16 points, 42-26. The Warriors when on to outscore the Hornets 23-11 in the fourth quarter for the 57-37 win.

Gulbin led the Warriors with 19 points, which included hitting four 3-pointers.

“We deserved what the coach dished out at halftime. We weren’t finishing and committed sloppy passes. At the half the coach reminded us that it’s do or die and that we were better than what he saw in the first half,” said Gulbin, who also talked about her head coach after the game.

“He’s one of the most dedicated coaches I have ever seen. He puts some much time and effort into preparing us for each opponent. He also he’s not just all about basketball and winning games. He wants us to learn from this experience and become a better person and he shows that constantly. He wants us all to be successful in life, not just basketball.”

In addition to Gulbin’s 19 points, Sweeny had 10 points, while Elizabeth Breslin chipped in with eight points.

Asberry had 19 points for the Hornets.