DARIEN -- A week is a long time to wait to play your next game. And when, you're still searching for your first win of the season, it probably feels like an eternity.
The wait proved to be worth it, however, as the Blue Wave defended their home court against Staples to claim a 46-41 first round LaVista Tournament victory over the Wreckers on Friday afternoon, setting up Monday's championship tilt with Greenwich, which claimed an opening round win over New Canaan.
The title game is slated for 3 p.m. at New Canaan High School.
Darien's Kelly Karczewski had the hot hand for much of the game, sinking five shots from beyond the arc en route to a game-high 22 points. Karczewski closed out the third period with a three-point play, making her shot and converting the and-one to give Darien a 36-27 advantage heading into the fourth.
"We started off rocky, but with this win we're going to get a lot of confidence and build on it and hoping to win again on Monday," Karczewski said. "It would be great (to beat Greenwich). I think it would catapult us to a new level of confidence, and I'm really excited to see where that takes us."
Darien's (1-4) nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter represented the second-largest advantage for either team, but the Wreckers (1-3) would not go quietly, even after Karczewski's final 3-pointer gave the Blue Wave a 39-29 advantage.
Abagail Lustig, who posted a team-high 18 points, sank a trey on the Wreckers' next possession en route to scoring the game's next six points to close to within 39-35.
"We did enough things to win the game. The difference was they knocked down a few more critical shots than we did," Staples coach Ed Huydic said. "We missed a couple of defensive assignments on their 3-ball shooters that hurt us."
Later in the fourth, Lustig scored four straight points on a layup and two free throws to close her team to within 44-41. Darien inbounded the ball under its own basket with eight seconds remaining, and the inbound was stolen by Staples before being immediately stolen back by Darien's Kaeleigh Morrill. Morill got the ball to Avery Malley, who went on to sink both of her free throws after being fouled with five seconds remaining.
"These are the most exciting games. They're the ones we live for," Karczewski said. "Although it was stressful, I think that it really helped us get to see what that's like and build on it."
Darien found itself in an early 9-2 hole before closing out the quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 13-9 lead heading into the second. Karczewski had five points while Emily Stein chipped in with four during the run.
Darien is hopeful that the nail-biting win can jumpstart its season, beginning with Monday's game against Greenwich for the tournament championship.
"It wasn't pretty, but we were able to dig in and finish," Darien coach Katie Lauten said. "We had a three-point lead at the half, and we knew we wanted to extend it. We did at one point, we let them back in, but to be able to finally close it down and the end and play smart was huge."
Huydic was pleased with his team's ability to rally in the fourth quarter, and he's looking for his team to respond to the adversity in the tournament's consolation game against New Canaan on Monday at 1 p.m. at New Canaan High School.
"We left more than six points out on the floor on makeable opportunities. But it was a game of two evenly-matched teams, and that's what happens," Huydic said. "I think (the consolation game) is very big. We cannot end the holiday break 0-2."
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DARIEN 46, STAPLES 41
Abby Lustig 6 3-6 18; Madeline Schemel 4 1-2 9; Tessa Mall 2 4-6 8; Sarah Mahoney 2 0-0 4; Maggie Fair 0 2-2 2. Totals: 14 10-16 41
Kelly Karczewski 8 1-1 22; Avery Maley 2 4-4 9; Emily Stein 4 0-1 9; Julia Comacchia 2 0-0 4; Emily Coyle 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 5-6 46
STAPLES 9 11 7 14--41
DARIEN 13 10 13 10--46
3-pointers: S--Lustig 3; D--Kelly Karczewski 5, Maley, Stein.