On paper, the FCIAC girls basketball quarterfinal round game between Wilton and Norwalk figured to be a down-to-the-wire thriller.
On the court, it was just that.
Junior guard Casey Pearsall poured in 24 points and senior Maddy Fulton added 16 points and seven boards -- including a rebound in the waning seconds off a potential game-tying basket by the Bears -- as fourth-seeded Wilton held on for a 49-47 victory over fifth-seeded Norwalk at energized Zeoli Field House Saturday afternoon.
It was quite a start to the tournament, and an even better finish for the Warriors (14-6), who regained the lead on a basket by Pearsall with 1:20 remaining.
Turns out, that would be the final lead change in this back-and-forth battle as Wilton got a pair of clutch free throws in the final minute from freshman Hayley English (eight points) and another by Pearsall.
Norwalk (15-6) got a jumper by senior Alexis Noonan (14 points, eight rebounds) to cut it to 48-47, and after a pair of misses by Wilton at the line with 11 seconds left, had a chance to tie it.
But Erica Cohens' off-balance shot deflected off the rim, and Fulton got her hands on the ball before hitting the deck along with two Norwalk players as time expired.
Wilton, which was making its first appearance in the FCIAC playoffs in nearly a decade, could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"I'm not sure when the last time we won an FCIAC tournament game was before today, but I know its been a very long time," an elated Fulton said. "I think it shows how far we've come as a program. We knew it would be tough, and I'm just so proud of everyone."
Cohens, a sophomore, finished with 14 points and Zayna Fulton had nine. Yet junior standout Emma Oyomba was hampered by foul trouble much of the second half and was held to just four points and eight rebounds, well below her season averages.
Turnovers were also costly for the Bears, as were missed free throws. The teams combined to go just 23 of 46 from the line.
"Too many mistakes," said Norwalk coach Ricky Fuller, who guided his team to its first regular-season Central Division title since 2000. "Now we'll get some needed rest and re-group for the state tournament."
Freshman Erica Meyer had three blocks and three boards off the bench for the Warriors, who advance to Tuesday's semifinals at Warde High School against top-seeded and undefeated Danbury. The 7:45 p.m. matchup will follow the early semifinal between No. 2 Trumbull and No. 7 Stamford.
"We're looking forward to whatever matchup is next," Pearsall said. "This was a great team effort and a long time coming for this program. We all stepped up."