NORWALK — Timeouts rarely have such a dramatic impact that everyone talks about them after games, so the one Staples coach Paco Fabian called with just under five minutes left in the first half tonight against Norwalk might soon go down as the stoppage heard around the FCIAC.
After the Bears scored three baskets in under a minute to take a 23-15 lead, Fabian reset his players and went to a 2-2-1 press. The result was forced turnovers that fueled a transition attack, three layups and nine unanswered points.
That was the start of a 21-3 run that led the Wreckers to a 43-35 win against the defending FCIAC and Class LL champions.
“It happened so fast I didn’t know we were ahead,” said Fabian, who had an outstanding athletic career at Norwalk. “I thought we were still down three or four. I asked a girl on the bench how were we ahead. It happened in like a minute and a half to two minutes. The steals at halfcourt got everything. The defense created our offense. We struggled on offense in the first half. Our defense gave us layups.”
It was Norwalk’s first home league loss in four years and one month.
Arianna Gerig, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, finished with a game-high 19 points for Staples (8-1, 6-0 FCIAC). Gerig is a factor inside but her agility allows her to drive and attract defenders, leading to open looks for her teammates.
“We talked about hustle and we talked about teamwork and hustle is everything,” Gerig said. “We work hard and we go after every 50-50 ball.
Staples entered the season as one of the favorites to displace Norwalk on the throne, and tonight was both an internal confidence boost and a message to the league.
“This is huge,” Gerig said. “Norwalk is a great, great team and we knew they were going to be great coming into this so beating them shows everyone that we’re here to win and we’re going to be a competitor in every game.”
Abby Carter added 11 points for the Wreckers, but most noteworthy were the intangibles that Gerig alluded to.
“You could see every rebound, every 50-50 ball was ours,” Gerig said. “We just wanted to win.”
Norwalk (6-2, 4-1) scored 23 points in the first 11 minutes and 12 over the final 20.
“After that timeout everything got away from us,” Norwalk coach Evan Kelley said. “I think it was a lack of focus and getting away from the things that were working. We started having lazy turnovers. Credit to Staples. We have to get back to the basics and learn from it and get better.”
Serenity Mayhew scored 11 points and Jakara Murray-Leach added eight for the Bears.
Carter scored seven of her points to start the game-changing spurt to end the first half. Gerig, Carter and Kathleen Cozzi accounted for 22 straight points during one stretch.
“Norwalk and Trumbull the last four, five years have been that hump, trying to get over that hump,” Fabian said. “Beating Norwalk gives us that confidence that we can play with the best teams. We’ve said it, we believe it, that we’re one of the best but tonight made us realize.”