Girls basketball: Wilton rides defense to 33-31 win over Norwalk

In a game where neither team put forth its best offensive performance, the Wilton High girls basketball team played solid on the defensive end to come away with the low-scoring 33-31 win over the Norwalk Bears on Tuesday at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

With the win the Warriors evened their season record to 3-3 overall, and 2-2 in the conference.

Wilton head coach Rob Coloney, who always seems to find the positive in any situation, was pleased with his team’s play.

“I’ll take 14 more wins like this one,” said Colony. “I’m very pleased with how the entire team performed tonight. They played a complete game and they battled to the end with a very good, physical Norwalk team. Yeah, we didn’t score as many points as we would have liked, but the team worked hard in a game they knew they needed to win to bounce back from last week’s loss to Norwich.

“Yes, we have a lot to still work on, but I feel we’re headed in the right direction,” he continued. “We need to be patient on the floor and be committed to the game plan.”

The Warriors scored the game’s first eight points to get out to an early lead. Elizabeth Breslin got Wilton going with a basket followed by a basket by Caroline Sweeny. Claire Gulbin drained a 3-pointer and went one-for-two from the foul line for the 8-0 lead. Sarah St. Surin got the Bears’ first bucket with just 45 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, as Wilton led 8-2 after one.

Wilton had its biggest lead of the game at 14-3 midway into the second quarter when Lauren Robertson banked a shot off the glass from down low.

Norwalk closed out the first half on a 6-1 run to cut the lead to 15-9 at the half. The Bears turned the ball over eight times in the first half, but the Warriors failed to turn them into points and grow their lead.

Wilton came out of the break and scored the first three points of the third quarter to up the lead to nine, but the fortunes started to turn for the home team. Norwalk forced the Warriors into turnovers, six to be exact, capitalized on them, and went on a 13- 2 run to close out the third quarter with its first lead of the game, 22-20.

But that would be the only time the Bears would hold the lead. Gulbin sank two free-throws to start the fourth quarter to tie the game at 22-22 and then connected for her second 3-pointer to put the Warriors in front for good, 25-22. Robertson added two more free-throws for a five-point lead.

Wilton turned the ball over six more times in the final quarter, with several coming with the clock winding down, but this time the Warrior defense held strong, keeping the Bears from scoring off the turnovers.

The Bears got within two points twice at 31-29 and again at 33-31. Two free throws by Gulbin and Erica Smith’s only basket of the game closed out the scoring for the Warriors.

With a chance to tie or take the lead, Norwalk Head Coach Ricky Fuller called a timeout with 12 seconds left. The Bears came out of the time-out with an inbounds pass in the backcourt, but the Wilton defense held strong. Norwalk had to force up a shot just before time expired and the ball bounced off the rim and the Warriors collected the rebound for the 33-31 final.

Gulbin lead the Warriors with 13 points, followed by Robertson with eight points and Emily Tuin with five points.

“I know it wasn’t pretty and we couldn’t get our shots to fall, but we played tough on defense and got the win,” said Gulbin after the game. “We knew they had a height advantage on us and that if the ball went inside and they didn’t have an open look that they would kick it back out to the wings. The coach told us to look for this and prepared us for it. We executed quick coverage on the wings, which forced them away from their plan and made them take other shots.

“We feel we have the talent to challenge our opponents,” she continued, “we just need to come out and be 100% mentally ready to play.”