FCIAC Girls Basketball Preview: Defending champ Danbury is still head of the class
Updated 11:22 pm, Tuesday, December 4, 2012
It took Jackie DiNardo 25 years to win her first FCIAC girls basketball championship. It could take a considerably shorter time, like maybe 12 months later, to get title No. 2.
DiNardo's Danbury High Hatters loom as a solid favorite to repeat as FCIAC champs in 2012-13. Star center Casey Smith has graduated, but DiNardo has plenty of talent returning to reload, including twin star guards Rachel and Rebecca Gartner.
It was quite a season last year, though. The team won 25 games (25-1) in the coach's 25th season and compiled the first perfect 20-0 regular-season -- boys or girls -- in school history. Besides getting her first league championship, DiNardo also picked up her 400th career victory.
But DiNardo knows that winning back-to-back championships is quite difficult, regardless of how good your team appears to be.
"Everybody will be going hard after us," DiNardo said. "When they play us they'll be playing at a different level. No doubt we'll have a target on our backs."
Danbury beat then defending champ Trumbull in last year's FCIAC final after knocking off Wilton in the semifinals. DiNardo expects both of those teams, along with a few others, to be right up there with her Hatters in contention for this season's crown.
More InformationTop girls basketball players by team Westhill: G Steph Roones, G Kat Grosso, G/F Meg D'alessandro, F Tyler Evans, F/C Jackie Paasman Staples: G Erica Stein, F Nikki Bukovsky, F Kelsey Bobrow, G Maggie Fair, C Madeline Schemel Greenwich: G Jenny Cespedes, G Alexa Moses, G/F Jamie Kockenmiester, F Rebecca Kural, F/C Abbie Wolf Trinity Catholic: G Siobhan Kirby, G Nat Senoble, G Kellie Hurd, F Ali Palma, F Nicole Fay Trumbull: G Alexa Pfohl, G Amanda Pfohl, F Erin Moore, F Joyce Woolen Fairfield Ludlowe: Julia Von Her, Caroline Pangallo, Charlotte Blatt, Pauline Blatt, Sydney Foulk, Alex Poitras Warren Harding: Nishell Pringle, Sydney Downer, Naomi McIntyre, Theresa Rose, Brae Stewart, Shemeca Thompson Fairfield Warde: G Michele Treglia, G Tiara Fountain, F Rachel Maltz, F Kenzie Burns, C Kaitlin McKenna Ridgefield: G Maddie Wiley, G Sandra Carpenter, G Andrea Ferrero, F Andrea Bedard, F Rebecca Lawrence Darien: G Emily Stein, G Kelly Karczewski, G/F Kate Bushell, F Ali Aparicio, C Meg Marren Norwalk: G Natalie Leslie, G Olivia Rosado, G Emma Oyomba, F Alleya Jenkins, F Sabrina Rodriguez, F Aleigh Fitzpatrick, F Erica Cohens, F Jazmine Taylor Danbury: G Rachel Gartner, G Rebecca Gartner, G Unique Tucker, F Allie Smith, C Kayla Handberry St. Joseph: G Lauren DellaVecchia, G Lauren Pitney, F Jenn Vazquez, F Mairead Donahue, C Erin Johnson Bridgeport Central: G Amanda McKenzie, G Diamond Allen, G/F Demere Hunt-Stephens, G/F Deanna Robinson, C Alexia Myers Stamford: Kelsey Santagata, Brianna Gordonb, Ashyla Cody, Anisa Fortt, Tiana England Wilton: G Casey Pearsall, G Haley English, F Alyssa Malvarosa, F Erin Cunningham, F/C Erica Meyer The following teams did not respond to requests for information: New Canaan, Brien McMahon, Bassick.
"They all want to knock us off so we have to keep our composure and play the way we know how," DiNardo said.
Five teams to watch
1. Danbury: The Hatters will rely heavily on their backcourt of the Gartner twins, who were co-MVPs as sophomores during last season's FCIAC Tournament and who would love to duplicate the feat.
2. Trumbull: Coach Steve Tobitsch really wanted a second consecutive championship last season after losing so many seniors the year before, but would gladly take two out of three.
3. Wilton: The Warriors were a bit of a surprise last year, reaching the FCIAC semifinals, but could go a step further if Casey Pearsall gets support from three sophomore starters.
5. Westhill: The Vikings have a nice combo: scoring from Meg D'alessandro, strong defense, unselfishness, and coach Mike King, who always gets the most out of his players.
Sleepers: Norwalk, Ridgefield, Fairfield Warde, Stamford, Trinity Catholic.
Five players to watch
1. Rebecca Gartner, Danbury: The shooting guard averaged 12.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.3 steals last year, and figures to improve on all those numbers this season.
2. Rachel Gartner, Danbury: Running the point for the Hatters last season, she averaged 11.8 points, 3.5 assists and 4.5 steals, and with Rebecca, form the best backcourt in the FCIAC.
3. Casey Pearsall, Wilton: Pearsall put the team on her back last season when the Warriors reached the semifinals, and may have to do it again.
4. Meg D'alessandro, Westhill: She is the best all-around player, as well as team leader, on a balanced, defensive-minded, unselfish team.
5. Alexa Pfohl, Trumbull: Older sister Victoria is now at ECSU, but Alexa, who should be one of the league's most dangerous perimeter players, should lead the Eagles into contention.
Off the bench: Erin Moore and Amanda Pfohl, Trumbull; Kelsey Santagata, Stamford; Tiara Fountain, Fairfield Warde; Erika Stein, Staples; Andrea Ferrero, Ridgefield; Erica Cohens and Emma Oyomba, Norwalk.
Five games to watch
1. Danbury-Trumbull, Feb. 11: The second-to-last game for each could very well be the first of two meetings, just like last season.
2. St. Joseph-Trumbull, Jan 18: No more Victoria Pfohl, Nancy Stablein or Jess Jowdy, who all graduated, but this rivalry will still have playoff ramifications.
3. Westhill-Trinity Catholic, Feb. 13: Both teams should be in the playoff picture, and throw in a potential city title on the line in regular-season finale.
4. Norwalk-Fairfield Warde, Jan. 4: Interesting matchup because no team lost more talent from last season, Warde to graduation and Norwalk to injuries.
5. Greenwich-Staples, Feb. 11: With Trumbull as its final opponent, Staples may need this one to stretch the state's second-longest state tournament streak to 31 years.