Trumbull, Danbury reach FCIAC finals
If ever the Danbury girls basketball team seemed ripe for an upset, this was it.
Not only had Wilton seized the momentum with a late second-quarter run, but the Hatters were also dealt a devastating blow just seconds before the halftime intermission when star senior Casey Smith went down with a suspected serious right knee injury.
Many teams in their position would have caved, but not this one.
Minus the St. Joseph-bound Smith for the entire second half, top-seeded Danbury turned to sophomore twin sisters Rebecca and Rachel Gartner, who stepped up and helped keep the Hatters undefeated with an impressive 51-38 victory over fourth-seeded Wilton in the FCIAC semifinals Tuesday night at Ludlowe High School.
"I was too busy yelling and screaming in the locker room to let our girls even think about playing the rest of the game without Casey," Danbury coach Jackie DiNardo said.
"I was at the St. Joe's quarterfinal game and saw Nancy Stablein get hurt, and I was thinking this was deja vu. We were without our best player, but I also reminded the girls that its a team effort and takes all 12 players to win. The girls showed a lot of heart."
Smith scored 14 points for the Hatters (22-0), while the Gartner sisters combined for 27 points.
Leading 23-22 at the half, Danbury took control with a 12-1 run to end the the third quarter.
Senior Maddy Fulton led Wilton (14-7) with 13 points and seven rebounds, and freshman Erin Cunningham had 12 points and six boards.
The victory puts Danbury in Thursday's 7 p.m. title game against third-seeded and defending champion Trumbull, which fended off seventh-seeded Stamford 40-33 in the early semifinal.
Junior Erin Moore had 10 points and 10 rebounds, while classmate Alexa Pfohl added nine points for the Eagles (19-3), who also clung to a one-point halftime lead.
Trumbull's cushion was extended to five after three quarters, but the Black Knights (12-10) hung tough and cut it to 29-28 on a basket by Kelsey Santagata (13 points) with five minutes remaining.
But the Eagles closed the contest on an 11-5 run -- including a pair of free throws by Victoria Pfohl in the waning seconds.
"We kind of sneaked in the back door (of the FCIAC tournament)," Stamford coach Todd Parness said. "They made us take some tough shots and we didn't hit many of them. But the girls played tough, I think we gave them a good game."
Senior point guard Kelsey Cognetta finished with 13 points for the Black Knights and Lauren Schapiro had seven rebounds.
Trumbull will be looking to avenge a 43-40 regular-season loss to Danbury on Feb. 13.
"One of our goals was to hold (Stamford) to under 10 points each quarter and we were able to do that over the final three," Moore said. "We're excited about making it back to the finals. I'm confident about our chances."