Experienced Wilton girls top Warde, earn No. 1 seed in FCIAC playoffs
WILTON -- Nothing beats experience.
Wilton's "Core 5" senior class of Erica Meyer, Erin Cunningham, Haley English, Makenna Pearsall and Hannah Maatallah had been waiting to exact a measure of revenge against Warde since the Mustangs knocked off the Warriors toward the end of last season. And, thanks to 19 points from Cunningham and 17 from English, revenge tasted very sweet as Wilton won the regular-season FCIAC crown with a 72-50 win Wednesday night at the Zeoli Fieldhouse.
"Our girls just came ready to play," Wilton coach Jaclyn Porco said. "They wanted it and they wanted to set the tone for the remainder of the season. They've wanted this since they lost to Warde last year. This is a great way to end the season and head into the tournament."
The Warriors, winners of 19 straight, will take the No. 1 seed into Saturday's FCIAC quarterfinals at Westhill High School. They will face No. 8 seed Ludlowe at 7 p.m., while Warde, the No. 2 seed, takes on No. 7 St. Joseph at 2 p.m.
"We wanted to come out strong and take momentum into the FCIAC playoffs," said Meyer, who's going to play Division I basketball at Providence. "The experience really helped. We've all been playing together for a long time and we know each other's strengths really well and we always try to capitalize on that."
Warde, which fell to 18-2, saw its six-game winning streak snapped in a wave of Wilton aggressiveness at both ends of the floor. The Warriors worked to get easy baskets and then did their best to make life miserable for the Mustangs on the defensive end.
"Youth showed," said Warde coach Dave Danko. "They beat us in every aspect of the game. They shot a great percentage in the first half. It was like a layup line for a while. Our youth showed. We got a little frustrated ... but it's just a regular season game. We go back and game-plan and we do a better job next time."
English scored nine points in the first quarter as Wilton used an 8-0 run to take an 18-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, and then Christina Holmgren came off the bench to score 12 of her 16 points in the second as the Warriors outscored Warde 22-10 to take a 40-21 halftime lead.
"We can always rely on Christina, she's like our secret gem," Porco said. "It's hard when she has to play behind Erica Meyer but talk about being ready, it speaks volumes for her. She was definitely prepared tonight."
In the third quarter, it was Cunningham who sparked the Warriors, scoring 10 points, including two big 3-pointers, as the lead grew to 60-39 heading into the final eight minutes. From there, Wilton coasted to its first FCIAC regular-season title.
"We have large goals," Porco said. "The entire program wants to succeed. It's time. The girls have worked very hard and this is a great way to start what we're calling the second half of our season."
Warde meanwhile hopes for another shot.
"We're 18-2. There's not another team in the FCIAC that has two losses," Danko said. "So, we're number two. I saw things that I need to correct and we'll see. Hopefully, we'll have an opportunity to win a couple more games and maybe play them again."
WARDE (18-2, 16-2 FCIAC)
Daja Polk 4 0-0 10, Lejla Markovic 2 2-2 8, Jacqui Lanese 0 0-0 0, Shania Osborne 5 2-3 12, Iliana Krasniqi 2 1-2 5, Sarah Cotto 5 1-3 12, Olivia Parisi 1 1-2 3, Allison Whitlock 0 0-0 0, Kim Rodriguez 0 0-0 0, Maria Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 7-12 50.
WILTON (19-1, 17-1)
Haley English 6 3-4 17, Erin Cunningham 5 6-6 19, Erica Meyer 1 5-8 7, Karen Brosko 5 2-2 12, Makenna Pearsall 1 0-0 2, Christina Holmgren 8 0-1 16, Hannah Maatallah 0 0-0 0, Caylin Cannavino 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 16-21 72
3-pointers: W--Polk 2, Markovic 2, Cotto. Wil--English 2, Cunningham 3.