FAIRFIELD--While it's currently exam week at Fairfield Warde High, the school's girls basketball team is preparing for its midterm exam next week with a pair of tough games against Westhill (Tuesday) and Danbury (Thursday).
The Mustangs' final preparation before that gauntlet wasn't a perfectly clean effort, but it was still enough to earn a 20-point win to remain undefeated in the conference.
Tiara Fountain scored 18 points and Kaitlin McKenna added 16 as Warde held opposing Staples to 15 points through three quarters in a 49-29 win on Friday night. Warde improved to 10-1 on the season while the Wreckers dropped to 4-6.
"It wasn't pretty tonight but (Staples coach Ed Huydic) had a pretty good game plan," Warde coach Dave Danko said. "We responded and came out in the third quarter and held them to three points and kind of opened up the game."
Warde, which has won five straight, is 9-0 in the FCIAC at the midway point of the regular season.
"We worked hard to get there," Danko said. "We are past the halfway point at 10-1 and there's something special here. We're continuing to grow and continuing to enjoy basketball. We can look any team in the league and play with them, but we have to continue to play and execute."
Iliana Krasniqi scored 12 points for the Mustangs. The freshman has made a significant impact during the Mustangs hot start as teams key in on other players. Krasniqi displayed her entire offensive skill set Friday, finishing strong at the rim in addition to knocking down a 3-pointer.
"You see a lot of good things from her," Danko said of Krasniqi. "When she starts to develop that outside shot; we get consistent scoring from her and she's rebounding. Teams focus on (McKenna) and it's allowing Iliana to get open to do things."
While the Warde defense gave the Wreckers fits at times, Staples still had enough offensive rhythm to generate quality looks at the basket. Abby Lustig scored 18 points for Staples.
"My girls play their rear ends off tonight," Huydic said. "(Everything) I asked of them: the focus, the energy and the drive; they did everything but finish tonight. As far as I'm concerned we had a game plan that could beat this team. We demonstrated that with regularity; good press-breaking and getting good looks."
Staples stayed in the game early thanks to a solid defensive effort, holding the Mustangs to five points over the first five minutes of the contest. Warde used a 15-2 run bridging the first and second quarters to gain a healthy advantage.
"(The Mustangs) turned us over more than a few times," Huydic said. "Their conversion rate isn't what killed us, what killed us was some of their inside muscle, to their credit, put backs and our inability to score."
Warde, which led 26-13 at halftime, put the game to rest in the third quarter, holding the Wreckers scoreless for the first six minutes of the period while scoring 13.
The Mustangs can now study hard for a home tilt with Westhill, which has dropped three of five games after a 6-0 start.
"We're undefeated at home, usually do pretty well at home," Danko said. "I don't think I have to motivate (the kids). I think it will be an evenly matched game and I think we'll have an advantage with our bench."
Fairfield Warde 49, Staples 29
STAPLES (4-6, 3-5 FCIAC)
Abby Lustig 5 5-7 18 Tessa Mall 1 0-0 2 Maggie Fair 2 0-0 5 Madeline Schemel 2 0-0 4 Sarah Mahoney 0 0-2 0 Totals: 10 5-9 29.
FAIRFIELD WARDE (10-1, 9-0)
STAPLES 7 5 3 14--29
FAIRFIELD WARDE 13 10 13 13--49
3-pointers: S--Lustig 3, Fair; FW--Fountain 2, Krasniqi.