Girls Basketball

FCIAC Tournament Preview — Danko: It’s Staples’ Tournament To Lose

With a deep lineup including players like Marley Lopez-Paul, Staples is the favorite heading into the FCIAC Tournament. (Mark Conrad)

After a regular season in which there was greater strength throughout the league than at any other time in recent memory, will the balance continue in the postseason?

Staples comes in as the favorite, but any of the top four seeds would seem to have a realistic shot at the title.

The Ruden Report asked Fairfield Warde coach Dave Danko to help analyze Saturday’s four quarterfinal games.

No. 3 Trumbull (16-4) vs. No. 6 Stamford (15-5), Noon

Stamford’s point guard (Jessica) Nelson is out with a broken hand so I think Trumbull will have the edge. Stamford’s size will affect Trumbull for a little while but after that I think the athleticism of Trumbull will wear Stamford down. Trumbull can go to its bench as well. Though they are young, they have been battle-tested.

It will be close for a little while but I think Trumbull will prevail. The multiple defenses that Trumbull plays will eventually wear Stamford down.

Cassi Barbato is one of the players that will make Trumbull difficult to beat. (David Whitham)

No. 2 Danbury (16-4) vs. No. 7 Ridgefield (14-6), 2 p.m.

Danbury has probably the biggest lineup in the state in terms of their 4s and 5s. They go to three girls that can play with their back to the basket and also come out and take you off the dribble and do multiple things. A lot of teams don’t have that. When Danbury’s guards are on, they are a top team. They can compete for an FCIAC championship and the state playoffs.

I think what could affect Danbury is a team like Ridgefield that has athletes. A team that could try to get Danbury running and get those big girls up in the open court. Ridgefield has the tools to do that. They have to have a good shooting night but have to force the issue. Danbury would like to play a half court game and I think (Ridgefield coach) Rob (Coloney) would like to get out and go in transition.

To get Danbury in a running game Ridgefield has to rebound and create off the defense. I think Danbury’s overall strength will be the difference in a close game.


No. 4 Norwalk (16-4) vs. No. 5 Greenwich (14-6), 5 p.m.

Both teams want to do the same thing. Norwalk has the experience. The key is their guard Belinda Hunte. If she is scoring from the outside, because we know she can get to the basket, she is the girl who will create all the opportunities for Norwalk. If she can score Norwalk is a really dangerous team. When they are hitting from the outside then they are on their A game.

(Greenwich coach) Chrys (Hernandez) should be a candidate for Coach of the Year. Bringing this young team and talented freshman class and mixing them with some of the seniors and playing the type of ball that they are playing, get up and go, press and create.

It’s interesting because both these teams want to get up and go. I think experience will prevail here. This is the most interesting matchup because of what the coaches are going to do down the stretch if it is a close game. It will be one of the better games to watch. You are going to see talented players, athletes, basketball players who are going to go baseline to baseline.

We’ll see how Greenwich’s freshmen do. They are playing like upperclassmen. They have played so many games now.

No. 1 Staples (18-2) vs. No. 8 Fairfield Ludlowe (12-8), 7 p.m.

Ludlowe started off slow but played a lot of close games. I think these kids are ready to compete with Staples. I think the overall strength of Staples will prevail. You’ve got to stop Staples’ transition and that’s hard to do. You’ve got to keep people out of the paint, flashing in the paint.

You’ve got to pick your poison. If you want to press them and run with them and try to outscore them, which is definitely hard to do, or you try and slow them down and maybe one or two girls are going to get their points. I think the key with Staples is slowing them down and trying to take your chances of trying to beat them in a halfcourt game.

Staples is very talented. It’s their tournament to lose. it’s a tough matchup for Ludlowe in terms of the athleticism of Staples, but they work hard and Ludlowe will go at you and they have rotations where they can go small and big. Staples’ older kids should lead the way. They will have to have a bad shooting tournament to lose.