Girls Basketball

Staples’ Defense Fuels Big Second-Half Run And Win Over Stamford

Staples’ Arianna Gerig drives to the basket. (Gregory Vasil)

STAMFORD — Staples girls basketball coach Paco Fabian knew if his Wreckers found themselves in a low-scoring game against Stamford tonight, it wouldn’t be a good thing.

So the Wreckers forced seven Black Knight turnovers in the first 2:51 of the second half, kick-starting a 27-3 run that carried them to an impressive 60-31 win at Kuczo Gym.

“I loved our rebounding and our defensive energy,” Fabian said after the Wreckers improved to 14-2 over all, 10-1 in FCIAC play. “Everybody came out with a lot of energy. (Stamford) plays with a lot of energy and we wanted to match that. We wanted to make a statement that the tournament is coming up and we’re ready to play in it.”

Kathleen Cozzi takes an open jump shot for the Wreckers. (Gregory Vasil)

After both teams started the game slowly (it was 4-4 after six minutes), the Wreckers led 26-20 at the half thanks in part to 12 Stamford turnovers.

Fabian then switched his team into a fullcourt 2-2-1 press that stymied the Black Knights over the course of a woeful third quarter.

At one point, Stamford had more turnovers (22) than points (21).

“I’ll have to go back and look at the film, but I think the back row of our defense just did a great job moving up and getting those steals,” Fabian said.

The Wreckers’ Nicole Holmes goes in for a layup. (Gregory Vasil)

Staples, meanwhile, outscored the Knights, 20-1, over the that eight-minute stretch to take a 46-21 lead.

Senior forward Arianna Gerig started the second half with seven straight points to get the ball rolling for the Wreckers.

After Nicole Holmes sank two foul shots for Staples, the Wreckers’ Kathleen Cozzi drained a 3-pointer to put her team up 38-20 before Stamford even scored a point.

Stamford’s Megan Landsiedel boxes out for a rebound. (Gregory Vasil)

“From the beginning of the season we’ve always emphasized defense,” said Gerig, who netted a game-high 20 points. “All our offense and all our energy comes from our defensive effort. We just came out of the locker room and everybody was fired up and we knew we had to come out and get the win.”

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All told, Stamford went 10 minutes and 55 seconds without a field goal, starting late in the second quarter and carrying over until there was just 5:30 left to play in the game.

“It started with the first half,” Stamford coach Diane Burns said. “So many turnovers. We just kept throwing the basketball away. You have to credit the other team’s defense, but it’s out of character for us. You can’t win a game turning the ball over more than you shoot it. It’s a recipe for a terrible loss. That was ugly basketball tonight.”

Stamford’s Jessica Nelson puts up a runner. (Gregory Vasil)

In addition to Gerig’s 20, Cozzi finished with 10 points for Staples and Holmes netted eight more.

After going 2-for-6 from the foul line in the first half, Staples was 21-for-26 in a second-half that saw 30 fouls called.

Megan Landsiedel was the lone Black Knight in double figures, netting 11 points.

Staples’ Nicole Holmes tries to shoot over Stamford’s Breanna Jacobs. (Gregory Vasil)

The Black Knights fell to 13-3 over all, 9-3 in league play.

“As a coach, I hope the kids are upset about it,” Burns said. “You don’t know exactly what goes through their head, but you hope they’re upset about the outcome and want to get back to work in practice.”

Stamford travels to Norwalk (11-3, 9-2) on Monday.

Staples hosts Ridgefield (9-5, 7-5) the same night.