Girls hoop: Slow start sends Wilton to third straight loss

Unable to get anything going offensively in the first half, the Wilton High girls basketball team fell to Pomperaug, 58-30, in a non-conference game Monday night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.

It was the third straight loss for the Warriors, who are now 1-3 after starting the season with a win over Harding.

Pomperaug (3-0) knocked down three three-pointers and had a 14-0 lead before the Warriors finally got on the board with a free throw in the final minute of the first quarter.

The Panthers forced Wilton into 10 turnovers in the opening period, pressuring the ball each time Wilton inbounded. Pomperaug’s size advantage in the paint also caused problems for the Warriors, who allowed second-chance baskets.

Wilton’s shooting struggles continued in the second quarter, which ended with Pomperaug ahead 31-8 at halftime. All eight Wilton points came at the foul line, as the hosts were unable to hit a shot from the field in the first two quarters.

“[Our] coach told us at halftime that he wanted to see who was going to play with heart and dedication in the second half,” said senior Kaitlin Reif. “We clearly had a huge lapse at the start of the game, but we came out in the second half and played to the final buzzer.”

Reif scored Wilton’s first basket from the field with 5:37 remaining in the third quarter and went on to finish the game with a team-high 12 points.

Pomperaug led 46-19 through three quarters and then hit eight-of-nine free throws in the final period to close out the victory. The Panthers made 17 of their 24 free throws in the game, while Wilton went nine-of-15 from the line.

Pomperaug got balanced scoring with 12 points apiece from Cara McGettigan and Maggie Lee and 11 points from Molly Flanagan.

“We clearly have a lot to work on, but the players are committed to work at it; it’s just going to take time,” Wilton first-year head coach Fred Francello said. “It’s a little disheartening about the way we played tonight. We worked on breaking the press the last two days and we talked about not leaving number 33 (Maggie Lee) open by the three-point line, and we struggled with both.

“I told the team at halftime that I’ve coached games that we were down by more [points] and came back and won, so showing me what this team is all about in the second half was key,” Francello added. “The players are working hard; we just aren’t seeing the results on the court right now.

“We’ve adopted a 30-minute rule on this team,” Francello continued. “If we lose a game we have to let it go after 30 minutes and move on to the next challenge, so we’ll see Wednesday night [against New Canaan] if they did that.”

Notes: Wilton fell to Fairfield Ludlowe, 44-40, in overtime last Friday night in Fairfield.

Sophia Strazza led the Warriors with nine points. Reif added eight points and Zoe Rappaport had seven points. Lily Umphred (six points), Leah Martins (four), Nancy Lynch (four), and Riley Eaton (two) also scored for Wilton.