Lady Wreckers 'exorcise ghosts' in triumph over Trinity

Ghosts of past defeats were exorcised at the Staples High School gym Friday night. Losses at the hands of Trinity Catholic have haunted the Staples girls basketball team for nine games, including eight regular season contests and one FCIAC playoff joust. The most recent setback occurred Feb. 18 when Trinity Catholic knocked Staples out of the FCIAC playoffs in the regular-season finale with a 48-46 home victory.

The Lady Wreckers ended this streak with a 58-48 triumph in the season-opener for both teams.

"There were ghosts that needed to be exorcised tonight," said Staples coach Ed Huydic. "This team knocked us out of the FCIAC playoffs last year. They had their way with us in recent years and we knew this was an important game. It's a good way to start the season."

Defense has been a trademark in Huydic's 30 years as coach, and it was the key Friday night. The Lady Wreckers swarmed the Crusaders in the first half, forcing 17 turnovers -- 10 in the first quarter. Trinity Catholic finished the game with 30 turnovers. Staples had only 12.

"It's one game we did what we wanted to do," said Huydic. "We used the four-guard set and it's all about pressure and defense. What you saw tonight [Friday] is what you'll get this year: pressure [defense] and [points off the] transition. I was pleased with how we ran our game."

Senior Chelsea Salamone (20 points, one rebound, eight assists, three steals, three turnovers forced) did it all for the Lady Wreckers. Salamone's pressure defense forced Crusader turnovers, set up senior captain Suvi Puripattarapan (15 points, five rebounds, four assists, four steals) for two straight 3-pointers and hit a layup to give Staples a 10-2 lead.

"Coach Huydic kept emphasizing to penetrate and pass to the open shooter," said Salamone. "Suvi was always open and had a great shot with an eye towards the basket."

"I gave Chelsea added responsibility and she took it on," said Huydic. "She took it to the basket and dished it out and when you dish it out, you get it back. It was a nice way for her to open her senior year."

Rebounding was the one area where Staples had problems. This deficiency gave Trinity Catholic, who had a 41-20 advantage on the glass, a chance to stay in the game. The Crusaders sometimes had three or four shots at the basket, but in the end, the Lady Wrecker defense was too much for them and they weren't able to capitalize.

"Rebounding is a weakness and it's the one thing we'll have to work on," said Huydic.

Junior Jaclyn Katz further lifted Staples on defense once she entered the game midway through the first quarter. Overall, Katz had six steals and forced five turnovers; her first theft of the game began a 13-0 run which made it 23-4.

"This was a big game for us," said Katz. "We lost both years I was here and last year by two points to knock us out of FCIACs and I wanted to get the win. I tried to read their guards and once Chelsea and Suvi pressed up top, it opened up steals for me."

Katz (13 points, four rebounds, three assists) also had the shooting touch, scoring five points in this surge. She swished a trey from Salamone and hit a bank shot from junior MaryKate Van Sant (four assists, one rebound, one steal).

"I haven't played basketball and I'm just getting back into things and I just started to work on my shot," said Katz.

Salamone nailed two threes during the surge.

The Lady Wreckers led 23-6 after the quarter and the Crusaders cut it to 15 in the second quarter, 27-12. Salamone answered with a runner to start an 8-0 spurt to make it 35-12 and Staples led 35-14 at the half.

"We realized Trinity Catholic had a tendency to play to the middle and leave the outside open," said Salamone. "It made it easy for me to take it to the basket. Huydic noticed the pattern and it made it easy for me."

Trinity Catholic cut the lead to 15 in the third quarter, 35-20, before Puripattarapan answered with two free throws to start a 13-3 surge. Puripattarapan hit a three after Salamone intercepted a pass.

"Our defensive pressure forced turnovers and helped us create offense," said Puripattarapan. "It helped me take some threes and drive into the lane and score. We focused a lot on shooting because we don't have many big girls. We have to shoot [well] in order to win."

Salamone said, "The one thing I want to work on personally is defense. Instead of letting it come to me, I went for it."

Senior Caroline Accardi (four points) hit a layup off an inbounds pass from Salamone during the rally. Staples led 48-24 after three quarters and its lead peaked at 26, 52-26, after Salamone laid it in off a midcourt steal, and 54-28 on two Salamone free throws.

Junior Nicole Brill (four points, one rebound), senior Lauren Romano (one rebound) and sophomores Jessica Coehlo (two points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals, one blocked shot) and Remy Nolan (one rebound, one steal) also contributed. The Crusaders made the score look respectable in the last three minutes of the game.

"Overall, I'm happy to get the win," said Huydic.

Puripattarapan said, "This game will set the tone for us."