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Wilton Girls Basketball '89 Team Retains Piece Of History

Jodi Sorrells, left, Elizabeth DeRosa, center, and Kristine Lilly were players on Wilton's 1989 girls basketball team. That is the only team in school history to win a league girls basketball title.
Jodi Sorrells, left, Elizabeth DeRosa, center, and Kristine Lilly were players on Wilton's 1989 girls basketball team. That is the only team in school history to win a league girls basketball title. Photo Credit: Contributed by Jodi Sorrells

WILTON, Conn. – For at least another year, the 1988-89 girls basketball team from Wilton High School will remain the only team in school history to win a league championship.

“I’m surprised no one else has done it,’’ said Elizabeth DeRosa, who led Wilton with 17 points in the 53-49 win over Danbury in the 1989 Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship game. “I’m very surprised.”

Wilton ripped off 14 straight victories to take a 17-1 record into the title game. Kristine Lilly earned MVP honors with 12 points as the Warriors rallied in the second half. Lilly, who was saddled with foul trouble, ignited a comeback after the Warriors fell behind, 34-30, in the third quarter. “It was one of my most memorable victories in sports,” said Lilly, who went on to become one of the most decorated players in the history of U.S. women’s soccer with two Olympic gold medals and one silver medal.

Lilly and Jodi Sorrells, another teammate, are still her closest friends, DeRosa said. Sorrells and Lilly see each other frequently and ran the Boston Marathon together last year. The bond among the three remains unbreakable more than two decades after they graduated.

“The chemistry we had was great,’’ said DeRosa, who was known as Liz Clifford in her basketball days. “We just had fun. My two biggest supporters are Kristine and Jodi. When we get together and see our kids playing together, it’s amazing. It’s a gift to have friends like that.”

“We certainly had a lot of fun out there,’’ Sorrells said. “Perhaps having a team that enjoyed working and being together was part of it. But mainly it's tough to deny the fact that we had some exceptional players. 'Liz' Clifford was an incredible basketball player, and Kristine was already a world-class athlete at that time.  The combination of the two of them was quite tough to beat.”

Lilly and DeRosa earned first-team all-league honors. Liz Johnson and Julie Tienken had 10 points in the championship game victory. Mary Britto, Abby Pelletiere, Ashley Paine, Amy Seigfried, Ashley Cimini, Cara Cahalan and Laura Marino were also on the team.

Wilton’s only league loss came in a 49-48 setback to Brien McMahon early in the season. DeRosa finished second in the league in scoring with 21.1 points per game and went on to play for two years at Keene State in New Hampshire. Tienken went on to a standout soccer career at Babson College.

This year’s Wilton team looked as if it might join the ’89 squad as league champions. The Warriors earned the top seed for the conference playoffs, but their 17-game winning streak was snapped by eventual champion Danbury in the semifinals, 50-46. The Warriors (19-3) played Branford on Monday in first round of the Class L state tournament.

One parallel between the teams is at point guard. Lilly starred at the position, as does Casey Pearsall this year. Both are more widely recognized, however, for their play in other sports. Pearsall will attend the University of Notre Dame to play lacrosse.

“I think it is great that Casey was able to enjoy playing a variety of sports in high school,’’ Lilly said. “I certainly had fun playing more than just soccer. I think competition makes athletes better, not a sole focus on drills in only one sport.”

The girls on the ’89 team took more away from that season than a trophy. They also developed lasting relationships.

“We knew we had a talented team,’’ Sorrells said. “But knew we had to continue to play hard and work hard to win games. Plus, we had a lot of fun playing together.”

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