NEW CANAAN -- The Danbury girls basketball team made it a perfect nine-for-nine to start the season on the strength of stout defense, a dominant second quarter in which it permitted just a single New Canaan point and a game-high 14 points by Rachel Gartner.
It all added up to a 56-18 victory for the unbeaten Hatters, the defending FCIAC champions who haven't won a game by fewer than 20 points all season.
"We talked before the game and said this was a strong team. We had to come out strong and not let them come close to us," Rachel Gartner said. "In the second quarter we focused on defense. Our team stays focused and disciplined and every practice we show up like it's going to be a game."
Danbury opened up a quick 6-0 lead as Uniqua Tucker, Rachel Gartner and Kayla Handberry all hit from the field, but New Canaan countered to cut the lead to 6-4 on consecutive buckets by Kelly Armstrong, who scored a team-high nine points. Danbury extended its lead to 10-4 on baskets by Rachel Gartner and Rebecca Gartner before New Canaan's Brianna McEwan sank a pair of free throws to close out the first quarter with the Rams trailing 10-6.
The Hatters took total control of the game in the second quarter by outscoring the Rams 17-1 to open up a commanding 27-7 halftime advantage. New Canaan's lone point came on a free throw by Armstrong, while Tucker and Kayla Handberry each dropped a quarter-high five points for Danbury.
"I thought we played hard and aggressive on our defense, but offensively we were timid tonight. Give a lot of credit to Danbury. They have good players who work very well together," New Canaan coach Kim Palmer said. "When you play timid against a team like this, they're going to eat you alive. We have to take this as a learning experience and take tonight's game and use things we can get out of it for our next opponent on Friday."
In the second half, Danbury's defense ensured that there would be no New Canaan comeback, and the Hatters extended their lead in each of the remaining quarters.
"I told my kids that they've got to be ready to play because (New Canaan) doesn't quit. They had a lot of respect for New Canaan and they still do," Danbury coach Jackie DiNardo said. "I'm fortunate this year because my kids are ready to play."
Now 5-5, New Canaan will look to again move north of the .500 mark and make a push for the FCIAC playoffs when it travels to Norwalk to take on Brien McMahon on Friday at 5:15 p.m.
"We struggled tonight, but we're going to have to go back to working hard in practice and focusing on our next opponent," Palmer said.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jchik17
DANBURY 56, NEW CANAAN 18
Rachel Gartner 6 2-2 1, Uniqua Tucker 4 2-3 10, Kayla Handberry 3 3-4 9, Allie Smith 4 0-0 8, Rebecca Gartner 2 1-2 5, Kellie Gaston 1 2-5 3, Nahla Ward 1 0-0 2, Kasey Boisvert 1 0-0 2, Kaitlin Aldridge 1 0-0 0. 23 10-16 56.
NEW CANAAN (5-5)
Kelly Armstrong 3 3-4 9, Collette Pellegrini 2 0-0 4, Courtney Rogers 1 0-0 3, Brianna McEwan 0 2-2 2, Marina Braccio 0 0-2 0. Totals: 5 5-8 18.
DANBURY 10 17 12 17 -- 56
NEW CANAAN 6 1 6 5 -- 18