mnorlander@bcnnew.com

For two teams with records well above .500, the game was played with the desperation of a playoff match and the sloppiness of a backyard pick-up game.

The Staples girls basketball team nearly blew a 14-point lead at Darien, but got a reprieve when the Blue Wave missed two desperation 3-pointers in the final seconds in its 40-37 loss to Staples. It was an ugly game -- there were 44 combined turnovers.

After back-to-back 3-pointers by Meg Marren and Liz Calby cut into the Wreckers' 10-point advantage, Darien trailed 38-34 with four minutes remaining. A Nicole Buch steal and subsequent bucket from the Blue Wave point guard got the girls to within two, and on the next Darien possession, Buch went 1 for 2 from the foul line to get the team as close as it would for the remainder of the game.

"It was chaotic because they were running two to the ball and we lost our sense of discipline," Staples coach Ed Huydic said. "We kept bringing the ball to the sideline. Why? I don't know. But, to Darien's credit, they really forced the issue with their defense."

After a Staples timeout, the Wreckers spread out their offense and played keep-away until Jaclyn Katz received a pass six feet from the hoop and swish it from the corner.

"Katz came up huge with that runner," Staples Coach Ed Huydic said. "That clinched it."

Darien trailed 18-12 at the half in large part because of the 18 first-half turnovers it committed. Marren led the Blue Wave with 11 points and Calby added nine. In the second half, foul trouble became an issue for the Wreckers. Chelsea Salamone fouled out in the fourth quarter, and that allowed Darien to continue to press against a depleted Staples (10-4) bench.

Darien (8-5) outscored Staples 12-6 in the final eight minutes.

Marren was a force around the rim in grabbing nine rebounds for the Blue Wave, but Maddy Krakowiak, who recently came back from an injury, also challenged her. Coming off two tough losses, Huydic said it was a huge game to come back and win. The team lost its starting center Jess Coelho to an ACL injury last week.

"And we're bringing back Maddie Krakowiak, who played a lot of minutes today, was a giant on the boards -- and she's just coming off an MCL injury," Huydic said. "To be 10-4, I feel blessed right now. We're looking forward to that last big push."

Still, Suvi Puritpatarrapan's 21 points, including three 3-pointers, were a big reason the Wreckers had the cushion of the big lead until late in the fourth quarter.

Nicole Brill added 10 rebounds and four assists for Staples.

"This game was pretty important because they were tied with us [record-wise] coming into the game," Huydic said.

He also said Darien was on pace to take this game away from his team if the clock had just a couple more minutes available.

"This was a case of just having enough," Huydic said. "I thought we missed some inside shots there that would've busted it [open], midway through the quarter, but we went on a lengthy scoring there. It wasn't until we got a little bit of luck -- a missed free throw [by Darien] and good use of the last 45 seconds by us with our spread offense to seal the deal."