Coming into this season, the outlook wasn't as clear as it normally is for the Staples High girls basketball team.
A staple of the state tournament for close to three decades, the Wreckers were forced to remake their lineup after graduating three starters from a year ago. There was some uncertainty as to who would step up alongside the team's senior guards, Nikki Bukovsky and Erica Stein, and help prolong the state's second-longest postseason run.
Would the team's youth be the cause of inconsistency? Or would the inexperienced mesh with the experienced and pave the way for another double-digit win season, and postseason run?
The Wreckers enter Thursday -- Senior Night against first-place Trumbull (17-2, 15-2) -- somewhere closer to the former of those two questions. They've shown glimpses of improvement, but, barring perhaps the FCIAC's biggest upset this season, the Wreckers are sure to fall one win shy of their 29th straight postseason trip.
There have been signs of late of Staples turning the corner and playing a more consistent brand of basketball. On Tuesday, the Wreckers fell behind Greenwich early, re-took the lead, relinquished the lead and finally won it 55-53 on Abby Lustig's jumper at the buzzer.
It was a gutty performance, the kind that Staples (7-12, 7-10) has delivered more often in the last month.
"We're playing a better brand of basketball. There's no doubt about that," Staples coach Ed Huydic said on Tuesday. "Even in the defeats against some top teams, we have been there -- the two-, three-minute mark, we're hanging around."
The Wreckers have played with a little more spark since a 26-23 loss to New Canaan on Jan. 18 that dropped them to 4-8. They collected a pair of wins -- albeit against a pair of sub. 500-teams Harding and Fairfield Warde -- and took two of the conference's top teams, Westhill and Wilton, down to the wire, losing 37-31 and 42-32, respectively.
"We've definitely improved," Huydic said. "We're more competitive and more inclined to play winning basketball. That's what it's all about."
The improvements have made Staples' record more respectable, but at this point, it's unlikely they'll do more than that. A six-game losing streak midseason -- followed up by a win over Bridgeport Central and the loss to New Canaan -- looks like it will be too much to overcome.
The Wreckers have more work to do and will need to find more consistency. They'll likely have to wait another year to do so.
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