Wilton girls hoop beats Stamford, advances to state semis

For the first time in program history, the Wilton High girls basketball team is headed to the state's final four.

The Warriors took everything Stamford dished out and managed to come away with a 49-40 victory in a Class LL state tournament quarterfinal game Wednesday night at the Zeoli Field House.

Wilton (23-2), the second seed in Class LL, will now play third-seed Mercy-Middletown on Monday night at 7 at Jonathan Law High School in Milford.

Wilton's Erica Meyer scored the first six points of Wednesday's game with two free throws and two baskets. Meyer backed in down low for her first basket and put back a rebound for her second.

Haley English hit for two and was fouled, and following her free throw the Warriors were off to a quick 9-0 lead.

Stamford got its first basket with 4:52 to go in the first quarter, but Wilton ran its lead to 16-2 behind scores from English, Karen Brosko and Makenna Pearsall.

Then it was the Black Knights' turn. Three three-pointers and a two-point basket in the final 2:05 of the period Stamford to within three, 16-13, at the end of the period. The final three-pointer went through the net as time expired.

Both teams turned the ball over five times in the first, but neither team could capitalize on its opponent's miscues.

“We didn’t get over confident with the early lead,” said Meyer. “They’re a good shooting team that went on a run against us. We knew they were capable of that, so we weren’t surprised by it."

Wilton opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run for a 23-13 lead. Brosko stole the ball near midcourt and took it in for a layup, giving her team the 10-point lead.

Again, the Wilton defense shut down Stamford at the start of the quarter, keeping the Black Knights  without a basket until Britney Moise hit a three-pointer with 2:55 left before halftime. That basket got the Black Knights started on an 8-0 run to close the first half with Wilton leading, 23-21.

Stamford used five three-pointers in the first half to keep the game close.

With 3:11 left in the second quarter, the 6'3" Meyer was forced to the bench with three fouls. She started the third quarter on the bench and was replaced by Christina Holmgren, who chipped in with six points in the period.

Both teams opened the second half cold, with neither scoring for the first 2:58 of the period. Stamford finally scored the first points of the third quarter to take a 24-23 lead.

The teams traded baskets for the rest of the period, and when Erin Cunningham connected on a three-pointer Wilton was ahead 34-32 lead with 10 seconds left in the third. Freshman Alexa Kellner then hit a long three-pointer just as the buzzer sounded to give the Black Knights a 35-34 lead going into the final quarter.

Cunningham opened the final quarter with a traditional three-point play and then drilled a three-pointer to put the Warriors ahead to stay with 5:18 to play. Three more points for the Warriors from the foul line upped the advantage to 43-35.

Stamford finally got on the board with 4:03 to play and scored five consecutive points to pull within  43-40. But the Warriors shut the door on the Black Knights and tallied the final six points of the game for the 49-40 win.

The Warriors came up with two huge plays on defense down the stretch to bring home the victory. With 4:53 left, English hustled for a loose ball and knocked it off a Stamford player and out of bounds to give her team possession. And then with 1:04 to play, Stamford’s England went up for a three-point attempt and got stuffed by Pearsall, leading England to get called for traveling and turn the ball over.

Pearsall drew the assignment of guarding England, Stamford's top player, and held her to just 10 points on the night.

“I’m exhausted; I can’t feel my legs,” said Pearsall after the game. “My teammates had confidence in me to get the job done and they did a great job in helping me. We hurt ourselves with turnovers and letting them get offensive rebounds, but we kept our composure and worked through it to get the win."

Meyer led Wilton with 12 points. Cunningham added 11 points and English finished with 10 points. Cunningham also had a big night on the boards with 13 rebounds. Meyer blocked four shots and Holmgren had three blocks.

Stamford's Kellner, a 6'0" freshman, led all scorers with 13 points.

Wilton head coach Jaclyn Woitkowski Porco was thrilled that her team got the win, but she also knows the Warriors are going to have to play better against Mercy, which spent much of the season ranked second in the state behind Capital Prep.

“We talked at halftime that we kind of got away from what was working early and that we needed to get back to that," said Woitkowski Porco. "We’re going to have to play with composure and poise the next time out.

"I felt that even though the game was close in the third quarter that we were going get the win and advance. Makenna (Pearsall) played an outstanding game covering England and that helped lift the rest of the team. After the game I tried to instill confidence in the team, telling them that it’s their time to win."