Sometimes, a defense plays so well that it makes the opposing offense look pretty much terrible. Such was the case Wednesday night when Fairfield Warde played host to Bridgeport Central in an FCIAC girls basketball game in Fairfield.
The Mustangs shut down the Hilltoppers the entire game and cruised to a 48-25 win at home. The victory improved their record to 3-0 on the season.
Warde's aggressive 1-3-1 defense repeatedly forced turnovers and made it challenging for Central to obtain any open shots. The Hilltoppers made just eight field goals, all two-pointers.
"Overall, I think the athleticism and depth of our defense wore them down," Warde coach David Danko said. "I thought all our players did a good job of getting up in the passing lanes and forcing soft passes. Sarah Cotto altered a lot of passes at the top of the 1-3-1, and Kaitlin McKenna and Tiara Fountain were able to get multiple steals. Holding a team under 30 is always a goal of ours."
The Mustangs' defense set the tone early by holding Central scoreless until halfway through the first quarter. After the Hilltoppers got to within five at the end of the first quarter, Warde forced a series of turnovers at the beginning of the second that ignited the offense and helped it take a 27-12 halftime lead. In the first half, the Mustangs did an especially good job of controlling the boards and not allowing Central to get any scoring opportunities in the paint.
Any chance of a Hilltoppers' comeback disappeared in the third quarter when Warde held them without a field goal to take a 40-16 lead.
The Warde offense lacked consistency for much of the game. Although it was able to generate easy baskets off of turnovers, the offense missed a number of open shots, particularly from the outside.
"We missed a lot of open shots that we should have made," Danko said. "We need to make those shots in important games, or it will come back to bite us. The opportunities were there, but we didn't convert like I hoped we would."
Cotto led the way on offense, as well as on defense, for the Mustangs, knocking down two 3-pointers to finish with 11 points. McKenna scored eight and is averaging 12 points on the season, and Michelle Treglia scored seven. In total, nine players scored for Warde.
Demere Hunt-Stephens led Central with eight points. With the loss, the Hilltoppers drop to 0-2 on the season.
Overall, Danko is satisfied with what he's seen from his team through three games.
"We've shown that we have a lot of depth and can do different things," Danko said. "I haven't had this type of group that brings an experienced senior class in a while. I think we have something special here. We just need to hit shots and continue to grow."
The Mustangs will play their first road game of the season in Trumbull Friday against St. Joseph.
Danny Atkinson is a freelance reporter