WILTON, Conn. The Wilton High girls basketball team played a first half to remember but a second half to forget in Tuesdays conference semifinal. The Warriors fell apart in the final 16 minutes even after undefeated Danbury lost its leading scorer, Casey Smith, to an apparent season-ending knee injury. The loss of their team leader lit a fire under the Hatters, who pulled away for a 51-38 victory.
We told the girls [Danbury] would work extra hard after losing their player. So we were prepared, Wilton head coach Jaclyn Woitkowski said. Id like to think we came ready to play, but tonight things just didnt fall for us.
The Warriors had a golden opportunity to potentially knock off undefeated Danbury as they trailed by only one point at halftime. When Smith went down, the stars were aligning for Wilton.
Instead, Danburys twin guards, Rebecca and Rachel Gartner, came alive in the third quarter. The Hatters lit up Wilton 16-6 in the third, with the Warriors losing their composure as time wore on.
I think we just forgot how to dribble in the second half, Woitkowski said. The gameplan was to allow Smith the points she was going to get and take away their guards. Then all of a sudden there were two girls [the Gartners] we didnt think we had to worry about and they beat us.
Both teams played extremely physical with elbows thrown and hard hacks in the lane not all of which were accidental. Maddy Fulton was on both ends of the physicality, driving hard in the lane on offense but eventually fouling out in the fourth.
Fulton did all she could to keep her team in the game, finishing with a game-high 16 points. Freshman Erin Cunningham had a breakout night with nine points.
Despite playing just the first half, Smith finished with 14 points. Rebecca Gartner led Danbury with 15 points. The Hatters will play Trumbull for the conference championship Thursday.
Wilton (15-7) will be in a good position for the Class L state tournament, which begins next week.
Update 2/22, 8:15 a.m. - Casey Smith was quoted in the Danbury NewsTimes saying that although it looked severe, her injury was not an ACL tear. She said she even hopes to play in Thursday's conference final.
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