When the FCIAC girls basketball season opened last month, there was a deeper pool of championship contenders than usual. Norwalk was considered by nearly everyone as the favorite, with Staples, Trumbull and Stamford right behind.
Sure enough, with the season about one-third of the way complete, all but Trumbull remain unbeaten in conference play, while the Eagles have just one loss.
That occurred last night, and was illuminating to what is looking like a league that is deeper and more unpredictable than presumed. Trumbull, the FCIAC’s most consistent program for the past decade, stunningly was held to just 18 points by Darien.
That brought the Blue Wave to 3-1 in the league and 5-2 over all, a record that is matched by New Canaan. The Rams were absent on radars when practices began, but they already have a win over Darien and last night defeated Greenwich for the first time in eight years.
The Cardinals had caused the most unexpected early noise, in large part because of the fast burst by freshman Mackenzie Nelson, who is leading the league in scoring. Greenwich is also 5-2 and 3-1.
Danbury, St. Joseph and Fairfield Warde have also lost just once in league play. Some of these teams may have staying power while others may be mirages, destined to drop off as their schedules get more difficult.
Stamford, at 6-0, is the last remaining team without a loss. The Black Knights have a strong backcourt, led by Megan Landsiedel and Jessica Nelson. They picked up a quality win on the road last night at Ridgefield, but their most difficult games loom.
Norwalk, which went undefeated a year ago and finished No. 1 in the state, has a new coach (Evan Kelly) and a number of players in expanded roles. The Bears opened with a loss to Newtown but have been perfect since.
Arianna Gerig, who sat out last year with a torn ACL, is back and will be one of the dominant players in the league. In another featured game last night, Gerig scored 19 points in a win over Danbury. The Wreckers have one coveted commodity most teams lack: depth.
Trumbull again is relying on defense; few teams execute it better. The Eagles are 2-2 in their last four games and needed to go overtime in one of their wins, against Fairfield Ludlowe. We will learn a lot about Trumbull in the next two weeks. Ridgefield, Staples, Stamford and New Canaan are the upcoming four opponents. A player to keep an eye on: Emi Roberto. She is off to a strong start.
The Wreckers travel to Norwalk next Tuesday before facing the Eagles. That could shake up the top of the standings.
It would be surprising if a team other than Norwalk, Staples, Stamford, Trumbull and perhaps Danbury occupies a place in the championship game, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a surprise visitor in the Final Four.
If nothing else, we are assured a final six and a half weeks of uncertainty. As last night, and the first month, has demonstrated, there may be fewer easy nights than at any time in recent memory.