It took the Staples High girls basketball team nearly the entire first quarter to score its first points against Darien on Friday.
By the time the Wreckers found any consistency on offense, it was already too late for them to mount a comeback.
Limited to just one basket in the opening quarter -- a Nikki Bukovsky layup with 38 seconds left -- Staples fell behind by as many as 17 points early, and lost to Darien 45-30.
"For 24 minutes of basketball, it was basically dead even. It was a real bad start," Staples head coach Ed Huydic said. "I'll give Darien some real kudos there. Their hard man (defense) kind of took us out of any ability to run some good tight sets."
The win was the sixth straight for Darien (10-4), which got a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds from forward Meg Marren. The 5-foot-10 senior scored seven points in the first quarter as the Blue Wave jumped out to a commanding 13-0 lead.
"I'm a lot taller than most people, so I just kind of post up, give-and-go," Marren said. "Just try to get everyone points."
Darien led 22-8 at halftime and expanded its lead to 25-11 early in the third quarter before Staples found its rhythm on offense. Bukovsky, who was guarded tightly all night by Darien's Emily Stein in the man-to-man defense, got a few rare open looks in the second half, and capitalized. Staples' senior guard scored 15 of her team-high 17 points after halftime.
"Bukovsky led the way there. Key shot after key shot," Huydic said. "Every time we needed an answer we got one, and then some. I think Darien was at the point where they were very uncertain what to do if they couldn't get the ball to Marren."
Bukovsky's fourth 3-pointer of the night whittled Darien's lead to single digits (39-30) in the final minutes, but the Blue Wave closed the game with a 6-0 run.
"The second she kind of gave me a little bit of space, I took that for advantage," Bukovsky said. "It was hard because she really was on me the entire game. It was hard to just get open for a split second."
Leading 33-21 after three quarters, the Blue Wave again turned to Marren on offense throughout the fourth. She scored 10 of her team's 12 points in the final quarter.
"She had a great game. Just working hard in the middle," Darien head coach Katie Lauten said of Marren. "Just working hard in the middle, the girls had to find her. We've been working on the entry passes, so sometimes she has to handle some tough passes. She does it."
Stein finished the game with eight points for Darien, while senior forward Kate Bushell added six.
Lauten, who coached Staples' girls freshman team from 2009 to 2011, has seen Darien play its best basketball late in the season. Since an overtime loss to Greenwich in the LaVista Holiday Tournament on Dec. 31, the Blue Wave has won seven of eight games.
"They just respond to everything really well. They're very coachable," she said of her players. "Everything that we've thrown at them, they've taken and have made their own. It's been great.
"I like getting a squad, seeing what they're good at and then working with it."
Staples has now lost six of its last eight since a 3-1 start to the season. The Wreckers need three victories in their final six games to qualify for the state tournament for a 29th straight season.
"When you've been in the state tournament every year since 1985, one of the first things you say to the girls at the first day of practice is, `Our No. 1 goal is to establish the baseline and keep the streak going,' " Huydic said.
Senior guard Erica Stein scored seven points for Staples, while guard Abigail Lustig had four.
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DARIEN 45, STAPLES 30
Emily Stein 3 0-0 8 Erin Karczewski 2 0-0 5 Kate Bushell 2 1-2 6 Kate Fiore 1 0-2 2 Avery Maley 0 0-0 0 Kelly Karczewski 1 2-2 4 Meg Marren 6 8-12 20 Kendra Fitzpatrick 0 0-0 0 Ali Aparicio 0 0-0 0 Claire Naughton 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 11-18 45.
Margaret Fair 0 0-0 0 Allison April 0 0-0 0 Fallon Bottone 0 0-0 0 Abigail Lustig 1 2-2 4 Dayna Gelman 0 0-0 0 Madeline Schemel 1 0-0 2 Nicole Bukovsky 6 1-4 17 Sophie deBruijn 0 0-0 0 Erica Stein 2 1-2 7. Totals 10 4-8 30.
DARIEN 16 6 11 12 -- 45
STAPLES 2 6 13 9 -- 30
3-pointers: D -- Stein 2, Karczewski, Bushell; S -- Bukovsky 4, Stein 2.