WESTPORT -- Injuries and other factors have left head coach Rick Fuller with just 14 players between the Norwalk High girls basketball varsity and junior varsity teams.
Given that, Fuller could least afford to lose senior center Emma Oyomba, who made the all-FCIAC second team last season and currently leads the Bears in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. But that's exactly what happened during Tuesday's game at Staples, when Oyomba picked up her third foul with 1:59 left in the first quarter.
The Bears were trailing 6-4 at the time. By the time Oyomba returned to the floor at 6:38 of the second quarter, Staples had pulled ahead 18-8.
The rout was on.
Helped tremendously by sophomore forward Madeline Schemel, Staples picked up its third straight win, 61-38 over Norwalk. Schemel, who was matched against Oyomba on both ends of the floor, scored 16 points and helped put her opponent into early foul trouble.
"Emma's got to be a smarter player," said Fuller, whose team fell to 1-3. "She knows better. She's been playing varsity ball since she was in ninth grade and she realizes we don't have the depth that we had in previous years. She realizes she can't make the silly mistakes. And I think she just forgot tonight. But she'll get it, she's smart enough to know."
Staples (3-1) exhibited an impressive mix of inside-out offense against Norwalk's zone defense. Senior guard Nicole Bukovsky was active in the halfcourt sets and fast breaks, and led Staples with 17 points. Bukovsky connected on six field goals, including two 3-pointers, and consistently attacked the seams in the Norwalk defense.
"Our defensive energy was able to kick-start the offense," Staples head coach Ed Huydic said. "It wasn't until we got all five people involved that I felt good about the performance tonight. But real good positive energy, and that's what we need game in and game out as we try to establish an identity.
"Right now we've got some real good chemistry going."
Bukovsky and senior guard Erica Stein (nine points) helped work the ball through the Staples' offensive sets. Schemel, often times working from the elbow on the floor, was the beneficiary of numerous entry passes. She connected on several left-handed turnaround shots.
"We did a really good job of moving the ball, especially against their zone," Schemel said. "My teammates did a really good job of finding me and that's why I was able to attempt all those turnarounds."
On the other end of the floor, Schemel did an admirable job containing Oyomba, who finished with 15 points.
"Emma is Emma," Huydic said. "I thought Madeline did a very good job at fronting her, keeping her out of a comfort zone, which is what we asked of her. It's a confidence-builder for a young post player to be able to do that. Then there's no fear next time."
STAPLES 61, NORWALK 38
Emma Oyomba 6 2-4 15 Alex Whalen 0 1-2 1 Mallory Rochefort 3 0-0 9 Alex Weber 0 1-2 1 Mariah Ventrella 4 0-0 10 Brittany Powers 1 0-0 2 Chelsey Cerrato 0 0-0 0 Totals: 14 4-8 38.
Madeline Schemel 8 0-0 16 Maggie Fair 2 0-0 6 Nicole Bukovsky 6 3-4 17 Erica Stein 3 2-4 9 Sophie deBruijn 1 0-0 2 Dayna Gelman 1 0-0 2 Allison April 2 0-0 4 Totals: 23 5-8 61.
NORWALK 8 9 7 14--38
STAPLES 12 22 16 11--61
3-pointers: N--Rochefort 3, Ventrella 2, Oyomba. S--Fair 2, April 2, Bukovsky 2, Stein.