WESTPORT — With their offense stalled only for partially self-induced reasons, Staples’ girls basketball team was locked in a tie with Glastonbury early in the fourth quarter of tonight’s Class LL quarterfinal game.
The Wreckers needed nothing more than a reinforcement of the situation.
“We knew as seniors we didn’t want this to be our last game,” forward Kat Cozzi said. “This is our last game at home. It meant a lot to the seniors. And everybody played like that.”
The top-seeded Wreckers went on a decisive 11-0 run and eliminated the Tomahawks, 49-42, to advance to the semifinals.
“We knew this is one-and-done now,” said Staples center Ariana Gerig, who finished with 15 points. “Any game can be our last game and the seniors especially. We knew we weren’t going to lose on our home court. We just need to get this one done.”
Staples (23-3) will face No. 13 Greenwich in Friday’s semifinals. The Cardinals defeated Trumbull tonight, 41-33.
The FCIAC is assured of having a team in the Class LL girls final for the fifth time in six years. That was predicated on a Staples win, which was very much in question for the first 26 minutes as both offenses were unable to get untracked.
The Wreckers were hurt by uncharacteristic turnovers, many coming because of Glastonbury’s relentless pressure.
“We hit a couple of big shots late,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said. “In the first half I give Glastonbury a lot of credit. They played great defense. We struggled offensively but they are a very good defensive team. They made it tough for us.”
Glastonbury, the eighth seed, took an 11-9 lead on Jaci Budaj’s 3-point shot at the first-quarter buzzer. The Wreckers used a late run to take a 23-18 halftime lead.
Staples was held to just a Marisa Shorrock 3-point shot for nearly six minutes at the end of the third quarter as Glastonbury tied the game with a 10-3 run.
Cozzi scored nine of her 14 points in the final quarter, going 7 for 8 from the line in the last two minutes as the Tomahawks got as close as five points.
“Kat was huge tonight,” Fabian said. “Ariana is always huge. They both played great games tonight. The one good thing about our team, which we’ve said, we always have Ari but another girl has been stepping up to help Ari every night.”
The Wreckers have become accustomed to close finishes, most recently their double overtime loss to Ridgefield for the FCIAC championship.
“We played in a couple tight games down the stretch,” Gerig said. “Overtime, double overtime. All of us have the experience to know what to do and the composure at the end of the game. Defensively we’re always great and that’s all about heart. I’ve said this a million times, we always are the No. 1 hustling team when we give it all we have.”
Glastonbury, which made eight 3-point shots, was led by Charlotte Bassett with 13 points.
The Wreckers only trip to the final was in 1995. They defeated Bridgeport Central.
Staples played Greenwich in the FCIAC semifinals and held on for a 65-59 win.
“Whoever we play it is going to be an extremely tough game,” Fabian said before he knew which league team he would be facing next. “They are both well coached and they both have great athletes.”