STAMFORD -- The New Canaan girls basketball team made a spirited to run in an effort to clinch a spot in the state tournament, but nothing was going to stop Westhill from winning its 14th straight contest, 54-38 at home on Tuesday night.
The Vikings stormed out to a 20-3 advantage in the second quarter, only to watch the Rams close to within three points in the third quarter before pulling away in the fourth for the 16-point win.
"We came out hard and we got a huge lead, but we got a little bit comfortable with our lead. We got lazy, especially our defense," said Westhill's Megan D'Alessandro, who scored a game-high 25 points. "We were still passing, sharing the ball and getting good shots off, but we weren't sprinting back on defense and we weren't boxing out and rebounding and hustling on both ends."
Although she watched her team drop its fourth game in its last five contests, New Canaan coach Kim Palmer did not believe the final score was indicative of her squad's performance.
"The kids played hard today, and I don't think the score necessarily reflects the way we played tonight. Defensively, we played hard. We took care of the basketball and limited our turnovers," Palmer said. "We've had problems with turning the ball over and tonight we were able to keep it relatively low, which makes a big difference."
D'Alessandro was on point for most of the night, but the Westhill senior shined brightest in the opening quarter when she netted 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and the Vikings led 12-3 after one.
Westhill (16-2) kept rolling in the second, scoring the first eight points of the quarter before eventually stretching its lead to 20-3. The Rams put themselves back in the game by closing out the half on an 11-4 run, including the last six points. Kelly Armstrong spearheaded New Canaan's rally by dropping six of her team-high 14 points in the quarter to close to within 26-17 at the half.
In the third, New Canaan picked up where it left off, scoring the first five points on a layup by Armstrong and a 3-pointer by Brianna McEwan to shrink Westhill's lead to 26-22. The Rams would get as close as 35-32 with less than two minutes remaining in the third, but the Vikings' Tyler Evans was nearly unstoppable on several drives to the hoop, scoring eight points in the frame.
Westhill entered the fourth quarter with a fragile 39-34 lead, but the Vikings started the final stanza with a 9-2 run to up the advantage to 48-36. D'Alessandro added another seven points during the run.
New Canaan dropped to 7-12 with the loss and needed to win its final game in order to qualify for the state tournament. That pivotal contest took place on Thursday at Fairfield Ludlowe High School at 7 p.m. against the Falcons, but the result was not available at press time. For a full game story, visit www.newcanaannewsonline.com.
"If we play the way we did tonight (against Ludlowe), it should be a good day for us," Palmer said. "It's been an up-and-down season and one of their goals is obviously to make the state tournament. We're down to our last chance, so it's a matter of us preparing tomorrow and coming ready to play on Thursday."
Westhill has long since punched its ticket to both the FCIAC and state tournaments, but D'Alessandro believes New Canaan's near rally and her team's ability to hold the Rams at bay could bode well for the postseason. Westhill will also play for the city championship in its regular season finale on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Trinity Catholic High School.
"I think it's good practice for us, not only for FCIACs but going into the city championship game which we want to win," D'Alessandro said. "But it's definitely good practice for FCIACs."
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Westhill 54, New Canaan 38
NEW CANAAN (7-12)
Colette Pellegrino 1 1-1 3 Brianna McEwan 2 1-2 7 Courtney Rogers 3 0-2 8 Georgia Hunsinger 3 0-0 6 Kelly Armstrong 6 2-3 14. Totals: 15 4-8 38.
Steph Roones 4 2-5 10 Meg D'Alessandro 8 6-6 25 Tyler Evans 5 1-1 11 Jackie Paasman 2 0-0 4 Crystal Dixon 1 0-1 2 Jineda Harkness 1 0-0 2 Sam Corsello 0 0-2 0 Kat Grosso 0 0-0 0 Edona Thaqi 0 0-0 0 Liz Grosso 0 0-0 0 Erica Gambino 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 9-15 54.
NEW CANAAN 3 14 17 4 -- 38
WESTHILL 12 14 13 15 -- 54
Records: Westhill (17-2, 15-2 FCIAC); New Canaan (7-12, 6-11 FCIAC)
3-Pointers: NC -- McEwan 2, Rogers 2. W -- D'Alessandro 3.
Highlights: W -- Evans 12 rebounds, 6 assists. Roones 8 rebounds, 5 assists.