The Fairfield Warde girls basketball team is improving to the point where it can overcome a lot of obstacles.

But losing five players was just a bit too much.

The Mustangs dressed just eight players due to the junior dance and Trumbull defeated Warde on Friday 44-36 at Trumbull High School.

"We played hard, we were in a position to win this game," Warde Head Coach Dave Danko said. "We've got to learn how to finish."

Five of the Mustangs players were absent due to the dance, leaving Warde with a rotation of just seven. Exacerbating

the situation was that Warde was returning Brielle

Lanese and Alex Aufiero from injuries.

Still Warde fought to compete with the Eagles despite Erin Moore's 13 points and Kelly Coughlin's 11.

"For a freshman to step up like that, their coach should be happy with her," Danko said of Moore.

Warde's Kate Kerrigan led the Mustangs with 12 before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Warde trailed by as few as four points in the fourth quarter but never led in the game. The Mustangs were only tied once, but that was in the first quarter at 3-3.

"Some of the shot selection and decision making, especially from my seniors, wasn't there," Danko said. "A couple of plays and a couple of decisions went Trumbull's way."

Kerrigan kept the Mustangs in the game in the first quarter when the sophomore guard led the team with six of her 12 points. Lanese also chipped in with four of her seven points as the Mustangs trailed 20-15 after one half. Lanese closed

with nine rebounds for the game.

Aufiero tried to keep Warde in the game as the senior captain scored nine of her 12 in the second half, but Trumbull opened up an eight-point, third quarter advantage.

"That was what we were trying to do," Danko said. "Keep it close and then pick it up in the third and fourth quarter a couple of notches."

Warde cut into that advantage, getting as close as 33-29 in the fourth, but a key 3-pointer by Coughlin opened that lead back to seven points and the Eagles made their free throws to improve to 7-6 in the FCIAC.

"We were right there," Danko said. "We tried to attack ... we just didn't convert on the offensive end."

With the loss the Mustangs were effectively eliminated from the FCIAC playoffs, but Danko still has visions of what is coming up.

"We need three to get in the state," Danko said. "That's our goal, we're still going after that. Hopefully we can disrupt somebody's season here."