FAIRFIELD — Without one of the top players in the league in Shania Osborne, the Fairfield Warde girls basketball team is adjusting on the fly and trying to develop the chemistry needed to compete for wins.

Though it’s a work in progress according to coach Dave Danko, the team took a step forward as they trek on without their star, who suffered a season-ending knee injury before Christmas.

The Mustangs (3-4) survived a pair of flurries from a feisty Staples group Thursday to come away with a 46-37 win. The Wreckers trailed just 35-33 with five minutes to play before a strong finish led by forcing numerous turnovers salted away the contest.

“When you have the luxury of a girl in the middle like (Osborne), that can create opportunities for everyone and it can cover up a lot of deficiencies,” Danko said. “We’re trying to find our identity without her and we did a good job. Staples made two runs and we responded.”

Warde will likely be in many more tight matches against FCIAC contenders without the presence of the dominating Osborne. Danko said he was pleased with how his group responded to the pressure of a close game.

“We came together as a team and our minds were on the same goal,” said senior point guard Daja Polk, who scored 12 points and iced the game with several foul shots down the stretch. “One we started finding our chemistry on the floor it was going to be a victory.”

The Wreckers held the ball trailing 35-33 looking to tie or take the lead, but a steal and layup by Olivia Parisi — who led all scorers with 14 points — followed by a free throw pushed the lead back up to 40-33.

Staples (6-2) was thinking upset from the opening tip as Rachel Seideman and Elle Fair buried 3-pointers early to jump out to a 6-0 lead. The Wreckers stunned the hosts by pulling out to a 19-10 lead as shots would not fall for Warde.

“(Warde) has been in big situations before and we’re trying to get a point where in big situations,” said Staples coach Paco Fabian, whose team dropped a second consecutive game after a 6-0 start. “We’re there and we have the ability.”

The Mustangs stormed back to a 20-0 run, including a 10-0 spurt in the final three minutes of the second quarter that gave Warde a 1-point halftime lead. Much of the damage was done at the foul line, where Warde held a 26-8 advantage in attempts.

“I think they wanted it more than we did,” Fabian said. “We have to win 50-50 balls; I don’t think we even got 10 percent of them tonight.”

The lead grew to 30-19 midway through the third quarter, but the Wreckers battled back to keep Warde honest. Staples switched to its press defense and got six points off layups and foul shots to close to within a possession late before the Mustangs slammed the door.

“(Staples’) intensity was high,” Polk said. “They came and played really well but we were mature and we held our composure and held the ball. At that point we had the upper hand because we were up.”

rlacey@bcnnew.com, twitter.com/ryanlacey11

WARDE 46, STAPLES 37

STAPLES 12 7 8 10—37

WARDE 8 12 12 14—46

STAPLES (6-2)

Rachel Seideman 2 0-0 6; Olivia Troy 1 0-0 2; Arianna Gerig 2 4-4 8 Nicole Dienst 2 0-0 4; Amanda Troelstra 0 0-0 0; Ginny Gerig 1 0-0 2; Julia Brower 1 1-2 3 Elle Fair 2 2-2 8 Sophie Smith 2 0-0 4. Totals: 13 7-8 37.

WARDE (3-4)

Daja Polk 2 8-10 12; Iliana Krasniqi 0 4-6 4; Kristina Krasniqi 2 3-4 8; Olivia Parisi 6 2-4 14; Caroline Aufiero 0 2-2 2; Jenna Cetta 2 0-0 6. Totals: 12 19-26 46.

3-pointers: S—Fair 2, Seideman 2; W—Cetta 2, K. Krasniqi.