NEW CANAAN -- For the 21st consecutive season, the Fairfield Warde girls basketball team is going to the state tournament.
The Mustangs punched their ticket by spoiling New Canaan's Senior Night with a 57-34 road victory while snapping a three-game losing streak.
Despite playing with a cold, Warde's Kaitlin McKenna dropped a game-high 18 points while establishing a strong presence under the New Canaan basket.
"It's good that we got (clinching the state tournament) out of the way," McKenna said. "Not that the pressure's off, but it's a good thing and it will keep our momentum going hopefully. We've been in for 21 straight years and now we keep that going for Coach Danko and our program."
For the Rams, who honored their four seniors (Courtney Rogers, Kelly Armstrong, Georgia Hunsinger and Brianna McEwan), the loss prevented them from clinching a spot in the state tournament, though they will need just one win in their final three games to earn the trip.
"It was a tough night start to finish," New Canaan coach Kim Palmer said. "The kids battled, but unfortunately we didn't have it tonight. For some reason, it looked like we didn't really have chemistry out there tonight."
A strong second quarter by the Mustangs created separation and allowed them to boost their lead from 7-5 after the first quarter to 22-12 at halftime. McKenna opened the second quarter with six straight points.
"We went on a little spurt in the second quarter. They were getting close and we hit a couple shots. We were on a little skid here," Warde coach Dave Danko said. "We had a couple disappointing losses recently and they bounced back. They handle themselves very well."
A late 3-pointer in the third quarter by Rogers helped the Rams to close to within 34-23, but four consecutive points by Warde's Kenzie Burns allowed the Mustangs to take a 38-23 lead into the fourth.
Warde put the game away with a 19-point final quarter, including six more from McKenna and five from Burns.
In addition to McKenna's big night, the Mustangs also received double digit scoring contributions from Burns and Tiara Fountain with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
New Canaan's top scorers were Kelly Armstrong and Rogers, who dropped 12 and nine points, respectively. Armstrong went 10-of-13 from the foul line while Rogers sank a trio of 3-pointers.
"We just have to move forward. We've got three more games left, and we need one more for states and that's what we've got to focus on," Palmer said. "We're running out of time, so we've got to capitalize on every moment."
In addition to the state tournament, both teams remain mathematically alive for the FCIAC tournament, but getting in would require a tremendous finish and a stumble by Darien, Ridgefield or Trinity, which are tied for the 6-8 spots with identical FCIAC marks of 10-4.
"We really came out and wanted to win this one," McKenna said. "We have a lot of history with New Canaan and we wanted to prove to our past seniors that we could still do it."
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Fairfield Warde 57, New Canaan 34
FAIRFIELD WARDE (8-9, 7-8 FCIAC)
Kaitlin McKenna 8 2-4 18, Kenzie Burns 2 7-9 11, Tiara Fountain 4 1-2 10, Michele Treglia 3 2-2 8, Mollie Kerrigan 2 0-0 4, Lejla Markovic 2 0-1 2, Carley Strachan 1 0-0 2. Totals: 22 12-18 57.
NEW CANAAN (7-10, 6-9 FCIAC )
Kelly Armstrong 1 10-13 12, Courtney Rogers 3 0-0 9, Colette Pellegrini 2 2-2 6, Goergia Hunsinger 2 0-0 4, Lindsey Seelert 1 0-0 3. Totals: 9 12-15 34.
FAIRFIELD WARDE 7 15 16 19--57
NEW CANAAN 5 7 11 11--34
3-pointers: F--Fountain. NC--Rogers 3, Seelert.