In an odd twist, three of the four FCIAC girls basketball quarterfinal matchups are rematches of games that were blowouts.
The only team within 10 points of its opponent the first time around was No. 8 Darien, which lost by eight to No. 1 Trumbull.
That may lead people to believe the quarterfinals will not be competitive, but only if they have not been paying attention to the league this winter.
Every team in the field has at least two wins against fellow playoff teams and every team not named Trumbull has at least three losses.
While the defending champion Eagles certainly look like the favorites on paper, every one of the eight remaining teams could be the ones left standing next Thursday.
At Norwalk High
No. 5 Stamford (12-4) at No. 4 Norwalk (13-3), noon
Norwalk blew Stamford out of the water in a 56-33 win at the end of the season. If Stamford wants a different result this time it needs to hit 3-pointers and rebound the ball, limiting Norwalk to one shot. Andrea O’Connor can battle inside with anyone and guards Kelly Jagodzinski and Megan Landsiedel are experienced ball handlers. Norwalk is very athletic, riding a 13-game winning streak before losing its last two games to Ridgefield and Trumbull. Asja Vega and freshman Jakara Murray-Lynch have contributed all season and will need to continue to do so.
Player to watch, Norwalk: Ashley Wilson (Jr. guard, 5-6) Wilson is one of the smoothest outside shooters in the state and can light it up from 3-point land. The guard can also handle the ball, creating her own shot or distributing.
Player to watch, Stamford: Brooke Kelly (Sr. guard, 5-7) Kelly may have been under the radar to start the season, but she is in the spotlight now. Kelly has stepped up in the scoring department and might be the most dangerous 3-point shooter in the league. She can also handle the ball and gets after opponents defensively.
No. 8 Darien (9-7) vs. No. 1 Trumbull (15-1), 2 p.m.
To say Trumbull is playoff-tested is putting it mildly. The Eagles are the defending FCIAC and CIAC Class LL state champions. They are always fundamentally sound, play smothering defense and spread out the scoring. Aisling Maguire and Brady Lynch are a dynamic duo in the paint. Darien won five straight games to qualify for the tournament and is a dangerous 8 seed. The Blue Wave have athletic seniors like Katie Ramsey and Hailey King who can help pull the upset. Darien hung with Trumbull in the regular season, falling 49-41.
Player to watch, Trumbull: Julie Keckler (Sr. guard, 5-7) Keckler fits the mold of a Trumbull player, meaning she hustles and is a plus defender. She is also a top point guard with excellent court vision, an ability to handle defensive pressure and create scoring opportunities for herself and her teammates.
Player to watch, Darien: Chrissie Fiore (Sr. forward, 6-0) Fiore is an athletic inside presence for the Blue Wave. She is a proven scorer in the paint and a long, disruptive defender. Fiore has a lot of quickness for a post player, making her very hard to deal with on both ends of the floor.Read Full Article
At Wilton High
No. 6 Ridgefield (12-4) vs. No. 3 Warde (13-3), noon
This might be the most intriguing matchup of the quarterfinals. Warde won six of its last seven games. The Mustangs have a tough, scrappy team that beats teams by being tougher than they are and outworking opponents with hard-nosed players like Caroline Aufiero, Kristina Krasniqi and Cat Allison. The Tigers are a much different team than the one that lost 47-27 to the Mustangs in December, winning four straight heading into the tournament. With just one senior, the young Tigers will be learning playoff basketball on the fly.
Player to watch, Warde: Olivia Parisi (Sr. forward, 5-10) Parisi has established herself as one of the best inside scoring threats in the FCIAC. Her emergence has helped Warde go from what looked like a rebuilding season to being a legit contender.
Player to watch, Ridgefield: Caroline Curnal (Sr. forward, 5-10) An all-state player and the Hearst Connecticut Media Athlete of the Year as a junior, Curnal is the only senior on a team loaded with sophomores and freshmen. Curnal can score inside but she is a tenacious rebounder and defender in the paint, creating problems for all who venture in.
No. 7 Staples (11-5) vs. No. 2 Wilton (13-3), 2 p.m.
Wilton is loaded with seniors, but for some of them, this will be their first taste of the FCIAC tournament. Wilton will be looking to avenge a 51-34 loss to Staples in the regular season. The Warriors are at their best when the scoring is being spread out and are red hot, winning 11 of 12 with the only loss coming to Trumbull. Staples lost three of its last four, though all to playoff teams. The Wreckers’ strength is their defense with Arianna Gerig having the ability to control the paint.
Player to watch, Wilton: Claire Gulbin (Sr. guard, 5-7) Gulbin can handle the ball, drive to the hoop or score from outside. She is one of several senior leaders on the floor but the one called upon to score with the game on the line.
Player to watch, Staples: Elle Fair (Jr. guard, 5-6) Having a good point guard can take a team a long way in the playoffs and Fair could be that guard. She can handle the ball, distribute it, drive to the basket or knock down shots from behind the 3-point line.