Wilton girls hoop team almost upsets NFA

With one minute to play, the Wilton High girls basketball team found itself with a 34-33 lead over one of the state's top teams Monday night.

But the Warriors weren't able to close out the upset.

Cebria Outlow scored on a coast-to-coast layup with under 10 seconds left, propelling Norwich Free Academy to a 35-34 win over host Wilton at the Zeoli Field House.

With Wilton ahead by one point and 12 seconds to play, the Warriors' Sarah Fitzgerald missed the front end of a one-and-one from the foul line. Outlow hauled in the rebound and stormed down the court uncontested for the game-winning basket.

After being outscored 14-6 in the third period, Wilton trailed by eight points, 31-23, going into the final eight minutes. But senior co-captain Karen Brosko hit a three-pointer on the Warriors' first possession of the quarter, and Christina Holmgren followed with a short jumper for two more points. Then, with 5:11 left, Brosko’s second three-pointer of the period knotted the score at 31-31.

“I’m proud of my teammates for the way we came out in the fourth quarter and didn’t let up and continued to battle,” said Brosko, who finished with 18 points.

The Wildcats (8-3), who were held to just four points in the final quarter, got their first two points of the period with 2:07 remaining to regain the lead at 33-31.

“They did a good job in shutting down our offense tonight, which took us out of our game," said NFA head coach Bill Scarlata. "We have been having some problems setting our offense this season; it’s something we need to work on. It wasn’t pretty but we got a win.”

Wilton (5-6), which ran time off the clock while running its offensive sets the entire game, continued that strategy with the clock ticking down. The Warriors got the ball down low to Fitzgerald, who missed a short-range shot but battled under the boards for the rebound and came away with the ball. Fitzgerald circled out to the top of the key and hit a three-pointer to give the Warriors a 34-33 lead with 1:10 to play.

Wilton got a defensive stop at the other end of the court, and the Warriors looked to keep the pace slow and run out the clock. But the Wildcats, who had several fouls to give, began fouling Wilton to force the hosts to the line. The strategy worked when Fitzgerald missed her free throw and Outlow took off for the decisive layup.

“I’m proud of the way the team came out in the fourth quarter and didn’t give up,” said Wilton head coach Rob Coloney.“This team works hard, and we held one of the best teams in the state to just four points in the fourth quarter ... that's pretty amazing."

Wilton got off to a quick start in the game thanks to Brosko, who scored her team’s first eight points. Brosko’s teammates did a great job in finding her open on the wing, as she started the game with a three-pointer.

Hana Previte found Brosko open under the basket for two points, and Brosko’s second trey put Wilton ahead, 8-3. With the Warriors in front, 10-7, Brosko stole the ball to open the second quarter and picked up two more points on a fast-break basket.

NFA then put together a 10-3 run to take its first lead of the game at 17-15 with 2:15 remaining in the half. Holmgren hit a jumper to tie the score at 17-17 at the break.

The Wildcats played their best basketball of the night in the third quarter to open a 31-23 advantage going into the fourth period. NFA's final two points of the third quarter came after Wilton turned the ball over while holding for the last shot.

"Our defense has been outstanding this year," said Coloney. "But this team needs to win one of these close games to help build confidence and show them they have what it takes. We had a chance to win tonight, and the combination of some coaching mistakes I made in guiding my team and mistakes made on the floor that we shouldn’t be making at this point in the season spelled defeat for us.”

In addition to Brosko’s 18 points, Holmgren and Fitzgerald added six points each and Caylin Cannavino had four points, as only four players scored  for the Warriors.