Weaver pulls away to beat Wilton in girls hoop state quarterfinal (updated)

The Wilton High girls basketball team went toe-to-toe with highly regarded  Weaver in the first half of the Class L state tournament quarterfinals Thursday night in Hartford. But the second half was a different story, as the Beavers pulled away for a 73-52 victory and a spot in the state semifinals.

With the loss, sixth-seed Wilton ends the season with a 21-5 record, one win better than last year’s total.

Wilton's only lead against third-seed Weaver came at 1-0, but after two baskets by Christina Holmgren to end the first quarter, the score was tied at 11-11. However, in the period the Warriors lost starting guard Karen Brosko with an ankle injury, and Erica Meyer was forced to the bench with two personal fouls. Brosko did not return the rest of the game. Holmgren came in off the bench to net six points in the quarter.

Weaver opened the second quarter with a steal and a three-pointer to regain the lead, but a Haley English trey off the glass put the score at 16-14. The Beavers then went on a short 6-0 run for a 22-14 lead.

At that point, it seemed that Weaver was going to put some distance between itself and Wilton on the scoreboard. But with Meyer on the bench now with three fouls, and the Warriors forced to put a different lineup on the floor, the visitors fought back to close Weaver’s lead to 29-26 at the half. Three-pointers by English and Erin Cunningham, and two baskets by Cori Cannavino, sparked the comeback.

Weaver surged ahead for good in the third quarter, using a 14-4 run to start the second half and a 10-2 run to close the period with a commanding 55-39 lead. Meyer, with limited time on the floor, got her first basket from the field in the quarter. But she was also hit with her fourth personal with less than a minute to play.

Weaver's Shaquana Edwards, who poured in a game-high 30 points, had quick hands and used them to pick the pockets of the Wilton guards and turn the steals into fastbreak lay-ups, which helped her team pull away. Wilton had no answer for Edwards: If the Warriors played off of her she nailed three-pointers (four for the game); if they guarded her tightly she drove by them.

The fourth quarter saw the Beavers’ lead grow to 30 points at 71-41 before Wilton ended the game with a flurry of baskets for the 73-52 final.

Wilton's lack of speed, slow reactions and tendency to get caught looking at the ball, all hurt the Warriors’ chances to advance in the tournament. Wilton also was forced into committing more than 20 turnovers in the game.

Weaver used its quick movement on defense and its long reach to block several shots and steal the ball. Both Weaver guards, Edwards and Dejane James (19 points), handled the ball well and seemed smooth gliding into the lane.

“There is no question we came out flat tonight,” said Wilton head coach Jaclyn Porco. “We are a much better team than we showed tonight; the girls were a little nervous. But that said, we were down early and then fought back, and at the end of the game they [the Wilton players] didn't stop playing, which I'm very proud of. They showed me a lot of heart in defeat.

“With the injury to Karen (Brosko) and the foul trouble for Erica (Meyer), we had to ask other players to step up for us and give us extra minutes and they gave me a great effort,” added Porco. “We have to improve on our mental aspect of the game in order to take it to the next level. What I like about this team is I feel we can openly talk, and about what we do wrong, but we mainly try to turn them into positives and also tell them all the things they're doing right.”

English led the Warriors with 14 points. Holmgren added 13 points and Cunningham finished with 11 points.