New Milford girls beat Notre Dame in defensive clash
The opposing coaches joked Friday night, during their pregame chat, that the first team to 25 points would win. It didn't quite play out that way in an SWC girls basketball game in Fairfield, but the defenses ruled in a game marked by inaccurate shooting by both teams. Inconsistent offensive production had been the theme for New Milford and host Notre Dame recently as both entered with 8-8 overall records.
In the end, because of an advantage in rebounds leading to more chances to shoot, New Milford earned a 33-26 victory. The result reversed their recent streaks each team was on. Notre Dame's four-game winning streak ended, and New Milford's three-game losing slide, which followed five wins in a row, came to a close.
"I'm going to look at the film (of the game) later, but my intuition tells me that I'm going to see that we missed 10 to 12 breakaway layups," said Notre Dame coach Eric DeMarco, whose team's conference record dropped to 6-5. "We had a lot of steals; we just could not covert the breakaways.
"I was proud with our second-half effort, but we just could not convert. In the second half, we did a better job of creating shots. In the first half, I was so upset because we had been playing better than that," DeMarco said.
Emily Llerna scored a game-high 11 points for the Green Wave. Lindsey Heaton, who did not score in the second half, and Corinne Heymach were next high with seven points each. Kayla Croswell, who had been hot in recent games, paced the Lancers' attack with 10 points, and Yasmine Walker added seven points.
The score was tied at 4-4 in the first three minutes of the first quarter, then Notre Dame's offense struggled as New Milford's defense dug in. The Green Wave closed out the quarter on a 9-0 run for a 13-4 quarter-ending lead. The Lancers' offense could not get in sync early in the second quarter and New Milford pushed its cushion to 17-4 before a Croswell layup made it 17-6 nearly midway through the quarter. Halftime came with the Green Wave on top by 19-9.
Each team scored five points in the third quarter for a 24-14 Green Wave lead entering the fourth quarter. The Lancers' defense produced some results with its pressing and trapping and a rally unfolded. But their push never really gained much momentum. Missed shots and some turnovers by the Lancers did not allow them to close the gap to fewer than five points.
New Milford made two of four foul shots in the last minute to withstand Notre Dame's charge. For the game, the Green Wave hit 7 of 18 free throws, Notre Dame went 2-for-5.
"We knew that both teams played very good defense," New Milford coach Bill Kersten said. He directed the defensive focus on containing the Lancers' two most potent scoring threats. Kersten praised the attention paid to Croswell, by Gigi Fusco, and to Briana Mann, by Alexis Kersten. Mann made two baskets. "To us, that was the key," Bill Kersten said.
"Gigi did a beautiful job on Kayla, and she did a beautiful job of being able to control the tempo," Bill Kersten said. "I knew they'd try to speed it up in the second half. Their traps and presses caused a few concerns." He noted how Fusco was effective at minimizing the points by Newtown star Cassie Ekstrom in a game on Tuesday.
But New Milford's superior ball movement and rebounding advantages -- leading to more possessions or extended possession when it grabbed offensive rebounds -- kept Notre Dame from making a serious run.
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New Milford 33, Notre Dame 26
NEW MILFORD (9-8)
Gigi Fusco 0 1-2 1 Kristiana Osborne 0 1-2 1 Maggie Grubb 1 0-2 2 Alexis Kersten 1 2-3 4 Corinne Heymach 2 3-4 7 Lindsey Heaton 3 0-0 7 Emily Llerena 5 1-2 11. Totals: 12 8-17 33.
NOTRE DAME (8-9, 6-5 SWC)
Kayla Croswell 5 0-0 10 Alexandra Danas 1 2-2 5 Dayniera Artis 0 0-0 0 Yasmine Walker 3 0-0 7 Briana Mann 2 0-0 4 Raina Ceryak 0 0-0 0 Bryanna D'Arangelo 0 0-0 0 Nakia Mabin 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 2-5 26.
NEW MILFORD 13 6 5 9--33
NOTRE DAME 4 5 5 12--26
3-pointers: NM--Heaton; ND--Danas, Walker.