It was the threat heard ‘round the gym.
Or at least, inside the Wilton huddle.
“We’re normally a very good defensive team,” Warriors coach Jaclyn Woitkowski said. “The problem was that we weren’t playing any. So I told the girls they better have their running shoes on for 2 ½ hours at practice. That threat seemed to get their attention.”
Not quite thrilled with the idea of extra conditioning, Wilton turned up the intensity at one end of the court and made several clutch shots down the stretch at the other en route to a 48-40 road victory over Norwalk in a highly competitive and entertaining FCIAC girls basketball showdown Thursday evening.
Trailing by five after being outscored 16-6 in the third quarter, the Warriors (9-3) put it all together over the final eight minutes. They opened the fourth period with six straight points and then weathered a series of lead changes before closing out the game on a 9-0 run over the final 2:10.
Wilton’s final five points came at the free throw line – an encouraging sign for a team that was in need of a quality win away from home.
“I’m disappointed with the way we played overall but very happy with the fourth quarter,” Woitkowski said. “We’re always working on our foul shooting, and we made some key stops when we needed to. We’re two teams jockeying for playoff seeding, so this was a big win for us.”
The Bears (8-4) saw their eight-game winning streak snapped despite a tremendous all-around effort by junior forward Emma Oyomba, who finished with game-highs of 19 points and 13 rebounds to go along with three blocks and two steals.
Senior guard Katie Schmidt gave Norwalk a lift with back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter, and Erica Cohens was a sparkplug off the bench with six points, three boards and three steals.
Unfortunately for the Bears, however, it seemed like there was a lid on the rim at times as the host struggled to score for long stretches in the second and fourth quarters.
“We couldn’t hit shots and that happens sometimes in this sport,” Norwalk coach Ricky Fuller said. “We missed some opportunities and (Wilton) did a good job down the stretch, especially at the line to seal it. We had been playing well coming in, so like I said to the girls, let’s put this in the rearview and start another streak.”
It was a balanced effort by the Warriors, who had seven players with at least four points.
Senior co-captain Maddy Fulton powered Wilton early on and had a team-high 12 points and five rebounds, while junior Casey Pearsall and freshman Haley English scored nine points apiece.
Seven of Pearsall’s points came in the fourth quarter, and junior Alyssa Malvarosa was also clutch with four of her six points in the final 1:20.
“Coach’s message got through to us,” Pearsall said. “Norwalk is a great team, super-athletic with a lot of chemisty. I’m just really proud of the way we responded in the fourth quarter. This is a big road win for us.”
Erin Cuningham, Erica Meyer and Hayley Tafuro each chipped in four points for the Warriors, who will now leave the running shoes in their lockers and get ready for McMahon on Tuesday. Also that day, Norwalk has another stiff test on the against 10-1 Trumbull.