FAIRFIELD -- Westhill seized the momentum by forcing overtime in the final nine seconds Thursday night in an FCIAC girls basketball game. The Vikings never lost their thrust in the extra four-minute period and defeated the Mustangs 61-52, which snapped Warde's second five-game winning streak of the season.
Steph Roones, one of Westhill's captains, hit a 15-footer to forge a 49-49 tie after regulation. Then the Vikings, who improved to 9-3 overall and 7-3 in the conference, made their first seven foul shots in overtime -- going 8-for-10 for the four extra minutes -- as they outscored Warde 12-3 in the extra period.
Warde, which sustained its first loss in FCIAC play, went 1-for-3 from the free-throw line in overtime, including missing the first shot of a one-and-one from the line. For the game, Warde was 4 of 12 from the foul line, while Westhill went 18-for-26. The Mustangs' overall record fell to 10-2. Their FCIAC record is 9-1.
Westhill won the opening tip in overtime and Edona Thaqi, the game-high scorer with 20 points, hit a layup six seconds in. Warde, which was led by 17 points from Kaitlin McKenna, was sent into scrambling mode and could not find the drive needed to challenge Westhill throughout overtime. Thaqi's free throws gave the Vikings a 55-49 lead 1:46 into overtime. McKenna's power move and basket cut the deficit to 55-51 a half-minute later, but that was the Mustangs' last push.
"I think we had an adrenaline rush right after tying it up," Westhill coach Mike King said. "We had the momentum, and we just carried it for the next four minutes.
"We executed at the end really well. When they were pressing us, we got the ball into the right people and we made our foul shots. When they pressed us, we handled it well. We played with composure in overtime. I don't even remember one turnover by us in overtime, so we made some quality passes," King said.
Warde had a six-point lead entering the final minute of the first quarter, but Westhill rallied and trailed by 17-15 heading into the second quarter. The Mustangs, who face 9-1 Danbury on Friday afternoon at 4, ended the first half on a 10-0 run for a 30-22 lead at halftime.
The third quarter was almost all Westhill as it outscored Warde by 14-6 for the quarter to create a 36-36 tie at the start of the fourth quarter. The Mustangs were ahead by 47-39 with 3:34 left before Roones began a Vikings' rally with a 3-pointer.
"Right from the tip (of overtime), they had the momentum," Warde coach Dave Danko said. "The wind went out of our sails, and they capitalized on it. That was the momentum they needed to bring it home.
"They weathered the storm. We couldn't deliver the knockout punch tonight. The momentum, we had it. We had them on the ropes," said Danko, who took blame for the Mustangs not being in sync with the defensive alignments he was calling for in overtime.
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Westhill 61, Warde 52 (OT)
WESTHILL (9-3, 7-3)
Edona Thaqi 7 5-7 20 Steph Roones 3 1-2 8 Tyler Evans 2 11-15 15 Samantha Corsello 2 1-2 5 Krystal Dixon 2 0-0 4 Liz Grosso 3 0-0 6 Olivia Wise 1 0-0 3. Totals: 20 18-26 61.
WARDE (10-2, 9-1)
Michelle Treglia 0 0-0 0 Daja Polk 2 3-4 7 Kenzie Burns 2 0-1 6 Lejla Markovic 3 0-1 7 Carley Strachan 0 0-0 0 Kaitlin McKenna 8 1-5 17 Iliana Krasniqi 2 0-1 4 Sarah Cotto 2 0-0 5 Tiara Fountain 3 0-0 6. Totals: 22 4-12 52.
WESTHILL 15 7 14 13 12--61
FAIRFIELD WARDE 17 13 6 13 3--52
3-pointers: W--Thaqi, Roones, Wise; FW--Burns 2, Markovic, Cotto.