Girls hoop: Late Wilton rally falls short against New Canaan

Trailing by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, the Wilton High girls basketball team made a run.

Scoring more points in the final period than it had in the first three quarters combined, Wilton narrowed New Canaan's lead to 36-31 with 45 seconds left Wednesday night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

But the Rams scored the game's final three points to come away with a 39-31 victory and send the young Wilton team to its fourth straight loss.

"I feel we’re making strides as a team," said first-year Wilton head coach Fred Francello. "Our young players are still making mistakes, but they’re not making the same ones, so it’s a long learning process. The game at this level is a faster pace and a more physical game, which are both new to some players.”

For the second straight game, Wilton was held to one point in the opening quarter, which ended with New Canaan ahead 6-1.

"We keep coming on to the court and having bad starts and that tells me we have a discipline issue,” said Francello. “Look, we’re a young team and that’s not an excuse; it’s just the reality. We’re getting a great effort by the team on defense; we need our playmakers on offense to take control and look for the open teammate. There were several times players were open; we just didn’t get them the ball.”

Points were at a premium throughout the contest, as New Canaan led 17-7 at halftime and 24-13 after three quarters. Each team committed 25 turnovers and racked up double-digit fouls, and those factors — combined with an inordinate amount of jump balls — meant the game was played at a snail's pace.

Down by 10 points with just over three minutes left in the final quarter, the Warriors went into foul mode to limit the amount of time taken off the clock and force New Canaan to make foul shots. Although the Rams did hit five-of-six free throws they also turned the ball over several times, helping Wilton go on a 10-5 run that left New Canaan ahead 36-31 with under a minute to play.

That was as close as the hosts could get, though, as New Canaan closed out its eight-point victory.

The Warriors (1-4) did hit the floor with more energy and focus than they had in Monday night’s 59-30 loss to Pomperaug. Wilton pressed the ball up the court and limited New Canaan's outside shooting. Junior guard Zoe Rappaport continually pressured the player she was guarding and made several steals.

“We were a little mad coming out of halftime and we took that fire onto the court and pressured them on defense, and we got going on the offensive end also,” said Rappaport. “There’s been a big learning curve this year with the new coach, and a lot of the players haven’t played together on the team, so we are still learning about each other. But we’re working together to gel as a team; it’s just a process.”

Notes: Sophia Strazza, who hit two three-pointers in the fourth quarter, led Wilton with eight points. Rappaport and freshman Leah Martins chipped in with seven points apiece.

New Canaan (3-1) was led by Jane Charlton, who had a game-high 11 points.