By Dave Ruden
There seems to be more of a buzz on the eve of the new FCIAC girls basketball season than in recent years.
Perhaps it is because there appears to be more good teams in the upper echelon.
Danbury has defeated Trumbull the past two years in the championship game. There is a pack of talented teams harboring realistic chances of getting the opportunity to play for the title in February.
Danbury. After being on the precipice several times prior to 2012, Hatters coach Jackie DiNardo is now hoping to lead her team to a three-peat. It won’t be easy, but she has two aces in her pocket. The three most uttered words this preseason have been “The Danbury twins,” Rachel and Rebecca Gartner, who averaged 12.8 and 11 points, respectively, a year ago.
Rachel, who also averaged 4.2 steals and 4 assists, has already signed with Boston College, while Rebecca, who has given a verbal commitment to Central Florida, averaged 5.4 rebounds.
The Hatters, however, are not a two-player act. Kayla Handberry averaged 9 points and 7.5 rebounds, while Allie Smith was good for 7.3 points and 6.2 rebounds, lending balance.
Ridgefield. Danbury’s border rival made it to the final game three years ago, and have the pieces for a return. Andrea Ferrero and Sandra Carpenter are the top returning scorers for the Tigers, who went 14-6 during the regular season but want to take the next step after early postseason exits. Madison Wiley and Rebecca Lawrence will make it difficult for opponents to focus their defenses on any one player. The Tigers will get a big opening night test against….
Wilton. The Warriors also possess a strong starting lineup, led by 6-3 center Erica Meyer, who is headed next year to Providence. She averaged 10 points and over 8 rebounds for a team that was 20-4. Erin Cunningham averaged 10 points and Hayley English is a versatile performer.
Westhill. The winner of the battle for bragging rights in Stamford may also be on the path to reaching the FCIAC title game. The Vikings are led by seniors Steph Roones and Tyler Evans, but this is also one of the league’s most athletic teams.
Stamford. The Black Knights are similar to their city rival. Center Kelsey Santagata is the go-to player, but first-year coach Diane Burns will be able to roll out a host of complementary talent, including Brianna Gordon, Anisa Fortt and Tiana England.
Fairfield Ludlowe: Led by Pauline Blatt and a hard-working supporting cast, the Falcons are optimistic they can improve on a 12-10 mark and be one of the league’s surprises.
Trumbull: A team that has been to three straight finals a sleeper? The Eagles were hit hard by the loss of two key starters, but led by Amanda Pfohl the cupboard is not bare.
Fairfield Warde. The former league power set a foundation last year despite an 8-13 finish. Coach Dave Danko is hoping the Mustangs, led by Kaitlin McKenna, will reap the benefits this winter.
Rachel Gartner Danbury
Rebecca Gartner Danbury
Erica Meyer Wilton
Kelsey Santagata Stamford
Tyler Evans Westhill
* Can Danbury three-peat?
* Can Trumbull find a way back to its fourth straight final?
*Border Wars: Stamford-Westhill, Ridgefield-Wilton-Danbury, Fairfield Ludlowe-Fairfield Warde. Some of the league’s best rivalries involve the best teams.
* After missing out on the postseason — by one game — for the first time in 28 years, can Staples get the 8 wins need to qualify for the state tournament?
Players To Watch
(Based on information provided by coaches to The Ruden Report)
Bridgeport Central: Demere Hunt-Stephens, Diamond Allen, Alexia Myers, Natasha Brown, Savannah Cummings.
Danbury: Rachel Gartner, Rebecca Gartner, Kayla Handberry, Allie Smith, Shannon Geary, Janine Kerr, Lauren Guiry.
Fairfield Ludlowe: Pauline Blatt, Caroline Pangallo, Charlotte Blatt, Julia vonEhr, Regan Steed, Alex McKinnon, Carey Yates, Trish Auray, Julia Pangallo, Meg Curran, Sara Grabowski.
Fairfield Warde: Kaitlin McKenna, Tiara Fountain, Michele Treglia, Kenzie Burns, Lejla Markovic.
Warren Harding: Brae Stewart, Shemeca Thompson, Theresa Rose, Naomi McIntyre, Sydney Downer, Lauderly Francois, Zsa’Queena Edwards.
Brien McMahon: Jazmine Taylor, Sabrina Rodriguez, Vicky Aguilar, Sahare Clarke, Areti Flippidis, Kim Duhart, Taylor Duhart, Kyle Courtney.
New Canaan: Ali Reilly, Devin Sevalla, Elizabeth Miller, Marina Braccio, Campbell Armstrong, Lindsey Seelert, Erika Smith, Meghan Salvaggi.
Ridgefield: Andrea Ferrero, Sandra Carpenter, Madison Wiley, Carly Mercede, Rebecca Lawrence, Andrea Bedard.
St. Joseph: Mairead Donahue, Ana DoCarmo, Shannon O’Meara, Caitlin Sharnick, Bridget Sharnick, Maite Gritsko.
Stamford: Kelsey Santagata, Brianna Gordon, Anisa Fortt, Tiana England, Maxine Fodiman, Camry Evans, Oriana Merone, Mackenzie Brown.
Staples: Madeline Schemel, Meredith Bemus, Abby Lustig, Maggie Fair, Natasja Geaorge, Tessa Mall, Kelsey Bobrow, Julia Bartimer, Sarah Mahoney, Alyssa Perry, Carly Lenihan.
Trinity Catholic: Amy Hurd, Erin Frederick, Kate Prackup, Kate Spielman, Gina DeVito, Anne Peltier, Kaitlyn Wells, Alana Gianokos.
Trumbull: Amanda Pfohl, Rachel Carron, Joyce Woolen, Kate O’Leary, Nina Vetter, Dani McGillicuddy.
Westhill: Tyler Evans, Steph Roones, Krystal Dixon, Edona Thaqi, Liz Grosso, Sam Corsello, Olivia Wise, Gabby Laccona, Adriana Gambino, Erica Gambino.
Wilton: Erin Cunningham, Haley English, Erica Meyer, Makenna Pearsall, Sarah Dickinson, Cori Cannavino, Kelly Brosko, Christina Holmgren.