Girls basketball: Wilton rally falls short in 53-49 loss to Cards

With so much on the line, Wilton High girls basketball head coach Rob Coloney was looking for the Warriors to play their best on Friday evening in Greenwich.

That wasn’t the case for most of the game, as Wilton struggled on offense and trailed by double digits in the second half, until a furious fourth-quarter rally got the Warriors right back into the game.

Unfortunately, two key possessions came up empty in the final minute and Greenwich hung on for the 53-49 win.

“I give Greenwich a lot of credit. They just played better than us,” said Coloney. “I don’t know if it was because of the snow or because we were intimidated. We did not match their intensity to start and I think that was the difference.”

With Wilton trailing several teams, including the Cardinals, for the eighth and final FCIAC playoff spot, it was a game the Warriors needed to win to keep their FCIAC hopes alive.

Wilton dropped to 10-7 overall with the loss, and to 7-7 in the FCIAC, one game behind Staples for the final playoff spot, with two games left. It was the team's fourth FCIAC loss by four points or less, or that went to overtime.

The Cardinals’ overall record improved to 11-6.

Greenwich was up at halftime, 28-18, led by Kimberly Kockenmeister’s 17 first-half points, which included three 3-pointers.

Baskets by Emily Anderson and Shaye Galletta to open the third quarter gave the Cardinals their biggest lead, 32-18. The Warriors were able to stay close, though never closer than six points, and the teams went into the fourth quarter with Greenwich up 36-28.

A conventional three-point play by Galletta, coupled with a free throw by Kockenmeister after Coloney was hit with a technical foul, put the Cardinals up 44-34 early in the fourth quarter.

The lead was still 10 points when Claire Gulbin’s 3-pointer started what proved to a 12-1 run for Wilton.

After Meghan Downey forced a turnover, a putback by Lauren Robertson — who battled hard under the boards the entire second half — cut the lead to 46-41 with 3:50 left.

An offensive rebound by Downey led to a driving scoop shot by Gulbin. After the Cardinals missed two free throws with 2:16 left, the Warriors beat the press, with Caroline Sweeny finding Elizabeth Breslin for the layup and foul, cutting the lead to 46-45. Breslin’s free throw to tie the game was off, and Greenwich’s Jaylen Faison grabbed the rebound and quickly pushed the ball the other way, feeding Galletta for a layup to make it 48-45.

An offensive rebound by Breslin led to one-and-one free throws by Gulbin, who sank both shots to make it 48-47 with 1:45 left.

With under a minute left, Wilton had a chance to take the lead, but Kockenmeister came up with a steal and went the other way to score despite being fouled. The conventional three-point play made it 51-47 with 36 seconds left.

The Warriors then turned the ball over, got it back on a block by Sweeney, and cut the lead to 51-49 with 5.7 seconds left on a putback by Breslin. But Kockenmeister sealed the win with a pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds left.

The Cardinals came up clutch at the foul line in the fourth quarter, hitting 11 of 14 free throws. For the game, Greenwich outscored Wilton at the line, 18-5. The Cards were 18-for-27 and the Warriors 5-for-12.

“Too many wasted possessions offensively and just not enough focus and overall effort from start to finish, and that’s why we came up short,” said Coloney. “We could look up and down at different things we would have liked to adjust, but I thought effort was number one. There just wasn’t enough of it.”

Breslin led Wilton with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Gulbin, who came on strong after a quiet first half, had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Sweeney finished with eight points, eight rebounds and two assists, and Robertson had seven points and six rebounds. Emily Tuin scored four points and Downey had two points, five rebounds and three assists. Kaitlin Reif added two points.

Kockenmeister finished with 26 points for Greenwich, while Galletta had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

For the game, Wilton shot 21-for-58 (36%) and Greenwich shot 17-for-51 (33%).
— J.B. Cozens