Staring at a seven-point deficit entering the fourth quarter of the LaVista Tournament consolation game at home against Staples, the New Canaan girls basketball team needed to create a swift momentum change if it was to claim its first win of the season.
The Rams did so by scoring the first seven points of the final frame and taking their first lead since early in the first quarter on a layup by Devin Selvala, but it was then Staples' turn to respond to adversity.
Behind a career-high 22 points from Abby Lustig, including seven in the fourth quarter, the Wreckers regained the lead on a layup and free throw by Lustig, made some critical free throws down the stretch and played strong defense to claim a 45-39 win.
"We knew we needed to win this one. Even when we started slipping, we knew we had to jump back at it and we worked well together as a team today," Lustig said. "Each shot that we make raises our confidence back up again and we just need to keep pushing through."
Following a narrow 46-41 loss at Darien in the first round of the tournament, Staples (2-3) coach Ed Huydic indicated that it was critical to avoid a two-game losing streak coming out of the Christmas break.
"Every win is a good win and getting one here today in a most competitive game is very meaningful. It gives us some momentum going into the New Years break, and just as importantly, it establishes confidence," Huydic said.
New Canaan (0-6) coach Kim Palmer stopped short of saying that it was her team's best performance of the season but did acknowledge that there were several positives to take into Friday's away game against Harding, as the Rams continue to seek their first win.
"The girls are fighting hard, but we just have to take care of the basketball. We turned it over too many times," Palmer said. "Every game we've played in there have been some positives. The unfortunate part is we just turned the ball over too many times."
Staples threatened to pull away early when it enjoyed a 9-3 run that stretched from the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the second to make the score 16-8, but New Canaan countered with a strong finish to the half, an 8-2 run that featured four points from both Selvala and Erica Smith.
Staples won the third quarter 13-7 to give itself a 35-28 leading heading into the final frame, eventually pulling out the win in a seesaw fourth.
"Abby lifted her game, and I have to point out Maggie (Fair) played a lot of minutes at the point and made very good decisions and made some key 3s," Huydic said.