Fair, Wreckers keep season alive in Class LL tournament
WESTPORT — Staples High girls basketball star Elle Fair was going to do all she could to help her team prevail.
Fair, the senior guard and unquestioned leader of the team, poured in 18 points in addition to three steals and five assists to help the Wreckers emerge with a 39-35 victory over Hall in a first round CIAC Class LL state tournament contest on Tuesday night at SHS.
“It was a weird feeling coming into the game knowing this could be the last time I played,” said Fair, who will play field hockey and lacrosse at Trinity College next year. “Everybody played really well. I think a lot of them knew that if we lost tonight we’d go home but you could see on the court that no one wanted to go home. It’s been an incredible season so I think we played like it was our last game of the season.”
With the win, the 16th-seeded Wreckers (14-8) will play at top-seeded and undefeated FCIAC rival Norwalk (24-0) on Friday at NHS.
It’s been an up-and-down season for Staples, which has had its fair share of injuries, most notably to Arianna Gerig and Marisa Shorrock. The Wreckers qualified for the FCIAC playoffs, but were bounced out of the tournament in the quarterfinals against Danbury.
“We’ve had a phenomenal year for the injuries we’ve had,” Staples head coach Paco Fabian said. “It’s tough when you lose an all-state player in Ari Gerig, who we still really miss, but the girls never quit. Our mentality is whoever is on the floor is on the floor and we’re going to do the best we can do.”
The Wreckers had lost their last two games going into Tuesday’s state game versus Hall and they were sluggish early on, trailing 26-23 at halftime. Fair was the leading scorer at the break with 12 points.
“There were a lot of nerves and we’re a young team,” Fair said. “Sometimes you have off nights but our defense kept us in the game.”
Staples’ pressure defense was led by Nicole Holmes, who finished with four steals.
Neither team could get much going in the third quarter but the defense of the Wreckers stepped up to hold the Warriors scoreless. Fair hit a jumper and two free throws and Marley Lopez-Paul buried a jumper with 5:22 left in the quarter to put Staples on top 24-23.
“We shot terrible tonight but our defense and rebounding carried us to this victory,” Fabian said. “We held them (Hall) scoreless in the third quarter. It’s unbelievable to do that.”
A 3-pointer by Olivia Delauriers tied the game at 26-26 21 seconds into the fourth quarter but Lopez-Paul, who also pulled down five rebounds, answered back with a jumper that gave Staples the lead back for good, 28-26, with 7:16 on the clock.
Hall’s 3-point shooting kept it in the game and when Colleen Kennedy buried a trey, the Warriors closed the gap to 33-32 (2:46). Fair then found Lopez-Paul for a jumper to give the Wreckers a three-point edge, 35-32 (2:20).
Staples converted its free throws down the stretch to ice the victory and give the Wreckers their first state playoff win in 10 years.
Thanks to Fair’s efforts, she got to leave the Staples court one last time victorious.
“Elle didn’t want her season to end and she had one of her best games of the season,” Fabian said. “We also got to start another senior, Maddie Phelps, which was cool.”
Fabian added that Norwalk will be a challenge but his team will go into the game fast and loose and see what happens.