Power points away — or perhaps a 20th game on the schedule — from facing off with a non-FCIAC school in the first round of the state tournament Tuesday, the Staples girls basketball team was pitted against 2016 FCIAC and Class LL champion Stamford, which also reached the FCIAC final last week.

The Black Knights proved to be too strong for the Wreckers, coming away with a 61-40 win Tuesday that ended Staples’ season at 12-9.

“The goal tonight was to show these girls that next year we want to be a force in the state,” said Staples coach Paco Fabian. “We want to try to win one of these tournaments; we have a great nucleus to build from.”

That doesn’t begin the tell the story of how the game played out, though. Staples was legitimately thinking upset as a huge second-quarter run gave it an eight-point lead and put the Black Knights on the back foot. It’s full-court press led to offensive opportunities not present in the halfcourt, which the Wreckers converted with quick passing.

But the Knights responded and a 3-pointer from the hosts rattled in right at the halftime buzzer to give it a 29-27 advantage, but the Wreckers hung around until the end of the third, when Stamford hit another triple and quickly pulled away in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into the game with so much adrenaline and excitement, I think by the fourth quarter we got a little tired,” said Staples sophomore Elle Fair, who scored 10 points. “They started hitting their shots, which hurt us a lot.”

Shooting proved to be the difference between the two sides: Stamford hit 10 3-pointers while the Wreckers converted just one.

The 12 wins were the highest in several seasons for Staples, which didn’t make FCIACs or states last season. Seeded No. 22, Staples, which overcame adversity at points during the season on and off the court, was one of 11 teams from the conference to participate in the 32-team tournament.

“It’s been filled with a lot of highs because these girls have grown a lot of confidence,” Fabian said. “They gained a lot of confidence over the year.”

The Wreckers fell 70-44 to Stamford during the regular season behind a massively slow start on offense—the Black Knights led 18-0 at one point. But the increased maturity of the group was on display, much like in its FCIAC quarterfinal defeat to Trumbull Feb. 18.

“We came in knowing we had nothing to lose because we were the lower seed,” Fair said. “We just pushed ourselves; we knew what they were going to do on defense, so we set up our offense so we wouldn’t get trapped.”

The future appears to be bright with Fair and freshman Arianna Gerig — who each were named to All FCIAC’s third team —leading the way for at least two more seasons. Expectations will likely rise with the development of the pair of standouts and the massive graduation losses by several of the other top teams in the league.

“(Gerig) has been a great addition to the team and I think we work well together on the floor. Only being a grade apart I’ve kind of helped her and she’s helped me with my game. It’s been really fun.”