Wilton puts away Cheshire in state second round

On a night in which Erin Cunningham became the program's all-time scoring leader, the Wilton High girls basketball team shut down Cheshire in the second half to break open a close game and register a 62-38 win in the second round of the Class LL state tournament Friday at the Zeoli Field House.

The second-seeded Warriors (22-2) will now play a conference rival, 10th-seed Stamford, in the quarterfinals either next Tuesday or Wednesday in Wilton. Stamford upset seventh-seed Career, 48-46, in the second round. Wilton defeated Stamford, 52-35, during the regular season.

The Warriors got out to an early 17-2 lead against 18th-seed Cheshire, as things weren’t looking good for the visitors. After contributing Cheshire's first points from the foul line, Kya O’Donnell netted the Rams' first basket with 2:43 to play in the first quarter to make the score 17-4.

Teammate Kelly Glatt connected on two three-pointers to trim Wilton's lead to 21-10 at the end of one quarter.

Five Warriors scored in the first period, led by Cunningham’s seven points and Erica Meyer’s six points. When Cunningham drained a three-pointer in the first quarter to make the score 11-1, she became the program's all-time leading scorer, passing Candy Benson. Cunningham finished with a game-high 20 points and now has 1,079 points for her career.

In the second quarter, Wilton had a 14-point lead, 27-13, when Haley English scored on a back-door pass. But Glatt stayed hot from behind the arc with two more threes-pointers and teammate Sara Como joined in with two treys of her own to close the Warrior lead to 31-26 with under a minute to play in the second period. Cunningham answered right back for the Warriors, to give her team a 34-26 lead at the half.

The Wilton defense left both Glatt and Como wide open for their three-point shots, and the Warriors didn’t capitalize on the 11 first-half turnovers by the Rams. Cheshire was pesky on defense, challenging the Wilton ball handlers and making the hosts work for their shots.

The Rams opened the third quarter by cutting the Wilton lead to 36-30. Wilton then stepped up its defense and picked up several fast-break baskets, closing the third period with an 11-1 run to take a 47-31 lead into the final quarter.

The Warrior defense finished strong, holding Cheshire to seven points in the final eight minutes to put away the visitors. Cheshire, which hit six three-pointers in the first half, had none in the second half.

"We clearly had some defensive lapses in the first half and we knew we would have to pick up the pace and fix our defensive issues in the second half,” said Cunningham. “We know it’s going to take mental toughness to win the rest of our games in the tournament."

Meyer finished with 14 points for Wilton, while English and Karen Brosko chipped in eight points each. Both Meyer and English were forced to the bench with four personal fouls.

Cunningham led the team with 12 rebounds, while Brosko had eight rebounds and Makenna Pearsall added seven rebounds. English made seven steals, and Hannah Maatallah had five assists.

“I was very pleased with the team's inside play. We got the ball to Erica (Meyer) in the paint and we found the players cutting to the basket,” said Wilton head coach Jaclyn Porco.“We didn’t convert their turnovers to as many points as we should have, and having key players on the bench due to foul trouble isn’t good.

"Defensively, in the first half, we showed poor rotation, giving them open shots," added Porco. "We will clearly need to be more consistent all around the rest of the way."

Glatt led the Rams with 17 points and Como had 10 points.