Less than 24 hours after earning a hard-fought 52-46 win over Bridgeport Central Sunday, the Staples girls basketball team took the court Monday in a game that had a postseason feel.
After all, both the Wreckers and their opponents, the Norwalk Bears, entered the game with seven wins, one short of the required eight to qualify for the state tournament, with one game left.
The short turnaround proved costly as the Wreckers allowed a 12-2 run over the final 3:30 as host Norwalk clinched a spot in the Class LL tournament with a 53-45 win.
"It's a lot to ask of these girls," Wreckers coach Ed Huydic said. "The amount of energy they put out yesterday and the amount of energy they put out today. ...The legs weren't as fresh, Norwalk did what Norwalk does and they were able to pull out a win."
Staples (7-12) jumped out to a 17-8 lead early in the second quarter but leading scorer Abby Lustig, picked up her third foul with 4:59 left in the period. The foul trouble halted the Wreckers rhythm and allowed Norwalk to get back into the game. Lustig led the Wreckers with 16 points despite the foul trouble.
"The foul trouble compromised us heavily; it was more than just Abby, Huydic said, referring to Julia Bartimer and Tessa Mall, who picked up their fourth fouls early in the fourth quarter. "That was a momentum killer not having Abby for that amount of minutes. That was the first time we were in this situation all season long; that was compromising for us."
The Wreckers fell behind 33-24 midway through the third quarter, but clawed back over the next eight minutes to draw to within a possession. Leading 38-35, Norwalk's Shantel Butler was called for a technical foul after fouling Mall on a shot attempt.
Mall hit 2-of-4 free throws to draw Staples to within one, and Madeline Schemel (10 points) hit a jumper to give Staples a 1-point lead. However, the Bears went on a 9-1 run to grab control.
"That was the closest we got," Huydic said. "I thought it was going to jump start us one last blow forward."
Norwalk freshmen Asiah Knight (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Shania Osborne accounted for most of the rebounding differential. The young Bears -- who played four freshmen and a sophomore for long periods of the second half--hit enough free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
"I believed in these kids," Norwalk coach Richard Fuller said. "I know they needed a lot of work but they continued to work hard. Probably midway through the season we started to come together and gel as a team."
The Wreckers have one more chance to get their eighth win, at home on Wednesday against Westhill.