Lady Wreckers survive, 30-29
The 10th-seeded Staples girls basketball team claimed a hard fought 30-29 home victory over 23rd-seeded Bridgeport Central n the first round of the Class LL Tournament on Tuesday. Staples raised its record to 15-7. Central ended its year at 8-13.
It wasn't a pretty game on either side but it was a good win nevertheless for the Lady Wreckers. Staples was hampered by not having its centers, senior captain Maddy Krakowiak and sophomore center Jess Coelho. As Lady Wreckers Assistant Coach Karen DeFelice said before the game, "It's going to be tough tonight with both our big people out." In addition, Central's senior forward Talisha Peeler was on the court this night and hadn't played in Staples' two-point overtime win at Central in December.
Staples was led by senior Co-Captain Suvi Puritpattarapan (13 points, nine rebounds) who didn't want this to be her last game. The speedy guard was a pest all night long, pressing the Lady Hilltoppers on defense; driving hard to the basket for scores; and fighting hard underneath for rebounds.
Puripattarapan said, "We were definitely nervous out there, what with no post, no height. We had to get as many rebounds as we could."
In this low scoring game, every point and every rebound was important. And a low scoring game it was.
With both teams starting off tentatively, it was a sloppy first quarter of play with both teams making bad passes.
Puripattarapan put Staples up by two in the last seconds of the first quarter to end it at 6-4. In the second quarter. The Lady Wreckers pressed hard on defense and surged to a 12-6 lead thanks to a breakaway layup by Puripattarapan, which was followed up with a put back by fellow senior Chelsea Salamone (4 points).
It was Puritpattarapan's aggressive play that kept Staples in this contest as she scored 11 of her game high 13 points in the first half, which ended with the Lady Wreckers up, 16-12.
The second half started off just as the first half ended with both teams very anxious and tentative. In fact, with just a minute and a half gone, Staples Coach Ed Huydic called a time out and was heard to tell his girls to "suck it up" and play the way they knew they could. The coach's admonition seemed to work as the Lady Wreckers seemed to push their game up to a higher intensity.
Puripattarapan was fouled on a layup and made both of her two at the charity stripe. Staples scored four quick points on back-to-back layups by sophomore Remy Nolan and Salamone to put the Lady Wreckers up 24-18 at the end of the third.
Staples extended its lead to 30-18 just two minutes into the final quarter. Junior Julie Strickland stuck in two followed by two more from fellow junior Nicki Brill. With their two centers out, Brill was appointed to step into the middle for Staples and performed admirably all night pulling down 10 rebounds against girls much taller. Huydic said, "Brill keeps hanging in there with the taller girls and the gets the better of them more times than not."
Brill said, "I'm new to the center position but it helps the team more for me to play there. Tonight, everything counted. Playing her [Peeler] made me a better player."
The game wasn't over however as the Lady Hilltoppers came storming back on Peeler's (13 points, 20 rebounds) 3-pointer. The Lady Wreckers didn't score again and had to battle hard on defense to keep Central from taking a lead.
With 2:45 left, the Wreckers went into a planned stall to take time off the clock. The strategy worked until a turnover gave the ball back to Central and with 35 seconds left in the game, they decided not to foul Staples. With just two seconds left, Central's Nathalie McLaughlin hit a trey to make it 30-29.
Huydic said, "their defensive effort had a monster effect all night. Tonight. A smaller team did a better job on defense. Every player had an impact in this game."
Staples will play at seventh-seeded Manchester in the second round tonight at 7 p.m. The Lady Wreckers lost at home to Manchester in overtime last year in Class LL. Huydic said, "This year we are undermanned and have to take that long bus ride just to be heavy underdogs."