Accustomed to seeing her team come out slow in the third quarter of games, Wilton High School girls basketball coach Jaclyn Porco received a pleasant surprise from her squad Thursday night against Greenwich.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, there was no third-quarter struggle for the Warriors. Instead, 6-foot-3 sophomore center Erica Meyer and senior forward Casey Pearsall took over, combining for 14 points in the third quarter of Wilton's 53-40 victory over host Greenwich in an FCIAC game.
"That's one of our weaknesses -- coming out in the third quarter," Porco said. "We are known to have this eight-minute lull, but tonight we didn't have that. At halftime, we said these next eight minutes will determine who wins this game."
Meyer, a tough matchup for the Cardinals all night, scored a game-high 19 points, while Pearsall and senior Alyssa Malvarosa each added 12 points. Greenwich, which played without injured freshman center Abby Wolf and senior guard Jenny Cespedes for the second straight game, received 13 points from sophomore forward Jamie Kockenmeister.
The Cardinals (4-7) held a five-point lead early in the second quarter, but the Warriors (8-2) closed the half strong, then outscored GHS 30-19 in the second half.
"We came out strong, but we let down a little bit in the fourth quarter," Greenwich coach Chrys Hernandez said. "That and their rebounding advantage was the difference."
Leading just 23-21 at halftime, Wilton went on a 17-6 run the first 6:50 of the third quarter to seize a 40-27 advantage. Meyer scored eight points in the third quarter, all of which came off putbacks and strong moves in the low post.
"We knew their was a mismatch there and we tried to take advantage of it," Porco said. "Although they double-teamed her Casey (Pearsall) stepped up and kept the girls going."
Kockenmeister made 1-of-2 free throws and senior guard Caroline Barrett (six points) made a 3-pointer at the buzzer, bringing the Cards to within 40-31 at the end of three quarters. Kockenmeister's layup off a pass from junior guard Rebecca DeCarlo cut Wilton's lead to 42-35 with just over five minutes left, but that's the closest Greenwich got.
Whenever the Warriors needed to stop a Cardinals' run, Meyer, Pearsall or senior Alyssa Malvarosa were on the scene. Malvarosa's short jumper, Pearsall's fast-break layup and Meyer's putback put Wilton back up by 13 with 4:25 left.
"Tonight, we were disciplined and let ourselves play our game," Porco said.
"In the first half we came out strong and played good defense," Barrett said. "The second half, we left them open for too many easy shots."
Greenwich suffered a 63-22 loss to Wilton last season, but quickly showed Thursday's game was going to be different. The Cards jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a basket from senior center Brittany Rodriguez and a 3-pointer from junior guard Alexa Moses, before taking an 11-9 lead into the second quarter. Moses swished a 3-pointer from the left side to start the second quarter, making it a 14-9 game, but then the Warriors found their rhythm offensively. With Rodriguez on the bench after picking up her second foul, Wilton got the ball inside easier. After DeCarlo's shot from beyond the arc put GHS ahead 19-13, the Warriors went on a 10-2 spurt to go up 23-21 at halftime.
"We kept driving to the basket trying to draw fouls and we were pretty productive with what we were doing," Kockenmeister said. "But as coach said, this is not a season for moral victories. It still hurts when we are so close and they pull away at the end."
Said Moses, who scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers: "We were on the floor for every loose ball and boxed out against their big girls pretty well. We were missing Abby, which was tough, but our other post players stepped up."
Up next for the Cardinals is a home game against Brien McMahon, Hernandez's alma mater.
"We have to step it up and get some wins," Barrett said. "Our goal is to make the playoffs, so this loss makes our road tougher."
WILTON 53, GREENWICH 40
WILTON 9 14 17 13 -- 53
GREENWICH 11 10 9 10 -- 40
Alyssa Malvarosa 5 2-3 12; Casey Pearsall 5 2-5 12; Erin Cunningham 2 0-0 4; Hayley English 3 0-1 6; Erica Meyer 8 3-4 19; Cori Cannavino 0 0-0 0; Sara Dickinson 0 0-0 0; McKenna Pearsall 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 7-13 53.
Caroline Barrett 2 1-3 6; Rebecca DeCarlo 3 0-0 7; Jamie Kockenmeister 4 5-7 13; Brittany Rodriguez 1 0-0 2; Alexa Moses 4 0-1 11; Rebecca Kural 0 0-0 0; Caroline Beneville 0 1-2 1; Leigh Galletta 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 7-12 40.
3-pointers: G -- Moses 3, Barrett, DeCarlo.
Records: Greenwich 4-7; Wilton 8-2.