Lady Trojans beat NF at Class M
Not even a slow start was going to derail the 14th-seeded Weston girls basketball team on Tuesday. Weston got off to a slow start at home against 19th-seeded New Fairfield but in the end, overcame a nine-point deficit and grabbed a 45-37 home victory in the first round of the Class M playoffs. The Lady Trojans won their first playoff game since 1996 in raising their record to 14-8, which earns them a second round game at third-seeded Windham (17-4) tonight at 7 p.m. New Fairfield ended its season at 11-10.
The Lady Trojans struggled in the early going and fell behind, 10-1 with 4:01 remaining in the first quarter. They had the majority of their eight, first-half turnovers in the first quarter and the Lady Rebels stayed up by nine, 14-5, with 1:37 left. New Fairfield's lead peaked at 11, 21-10 with 5:21 to go in the half when junior Shannon McCourt set up Taylor Ryan's layup. McCourt (10 points) and senior Liz LaRegina (eight points) did most of the damage for the Lady Rebels, scoring six points each in the first half.
Weston struggled on the glass in the first half and had only six rebounds before the break. Junior Hannah Hutchins (nine points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal, two forced turnovers) gave the Lady Trojans life when she lined up and swished her second 3-pointer of the game to make it 21-13 with 4:58 left.
"I just took my space, I was open and I took my shot," Hutchins said.
While Weston struggled on offense and rebounding, it did well on defense and forced eight New Fairfield turnovers in the first half. Senior captain Brittany Swanson (10 points, four rebounds, one assist, two steals, three forced turnovers) hit two straight layups after Hutchins' trey and set up senior captain Natalie Odierna's (two points, one rebound, one steal, one forced turnover, one tieup) layup before the half to cut the deficit to three at the break, 23-20. Swanson also made the plays on defense and was instrumental in forcing the Lady Rebel turnovers.
"I played my hardest and I tried to anticipate because this could have been my last game ever and I didn't want that to be the case," Swanson said.
The Lady Trojans carried their momentum into the second half and they were a much different team. They allowed only 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds after the break.
"I reminded them we had to play well defensively and not allow any second chance points," Cole said.
Odierna said, "Coach told us at halftime not to have our heads down and we came out the dominant team."
Sophomore Ellie Martin especially came out strong for Weston after the break. Martin (16 points, 11 rebounds, one steal, two forced turnovers) was especially a force on the glass, grabbing 10 rebounds after the break. After New Fairfield senior Vicky Vitale (six points) hit a layup to make it 25-20, Martin scored on two straight putbacks to make it 25-24.
"I made sure I got the girl near me and boxed out," Martin said. "I went up strong. It doesn't matter what the opposing defense does, it matters what you do and I tried to finish the shot."
Martin also had 13 points after the break and her layup gave Weston its first lead of the game, 26-25 with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter.
"I guess in the first half, I had nerves and in the second half, I didn't want to lose and I didn't want the seniors' season to end. I fought to make sure their season continued."
The Lady Trojans forced 12 second half turnovers, 20 overall and built their lead to five, 32-27. A few bad calls and non-calls later and the Lady Rebels started to come back. One Martin was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound but the referee called a jump ball instead, awarding New Fairfield possession. Swanson was called for a travel even though she was fouled and Martin was assessed an offensive foul even though she didn't touch a Lady Rebel. Weston had eight turnovers in the second half, at least two because of a bad call.
New Fairfield took advantage of its breaks and cut the lead to 32-31, which was the score after three quarters. The Lady Rebels had two chances to regain the lead but Lady Trojan junior Christina Welsh thwarted them both times. Welsh (seven points, one rebound, two assists, seven steals, three forced turnovers) was a defensive bandit and ended one opportunity with a steal and forced a turnover on the other chance.
"I tried to keep my hands up and get deflections and ran to it," Welsh said. "I tried to anticipate and go where the play was going."
Welsh hit a free throw and Martin ended New Fairfield's possession with a defensive rebound. Martin then scored on a putback to make it 35-31 and then hit 3-4 free throws to extend the lead to five, 38-33 with 2:47 to go in the game.
"Our offensive rebounding was better in the second half," Swanson said. "Ellie stepped it up and our defense played better in the second half."
Welsh set up a Swanson layup and helped ice the game at the free throw line by going 4-4 down the stretch. Overall, Welsh was 7-8 from the charity stripe.
"I had to relax and remember all the hard work I put into my free throws," Welsh said.
Junior Dakota Sloop (one point, two rebounds) and freshman Taylor Swanson (one rebound, one assist, two forced turnovers) also contributed.
Weston is looking forward to its game against Windham tonight.
"We don't know anything about Windham and we'll go in there with a positive attitude," Odierna said.