STAMFORD — Pure talent is nice.

But effort, persistance, belief and character can be precious commodities.

The Westhill High School girls basketball team fashioned a 19-2 closing run over the final 5:50 to grab an improbable 50-48 triumph over New Canaan Thursday night at the J. Walter Kennedy Athletic complex.

“There was effort. There was focus. There was buying into the system,” Westhill’s first-year head coach Katherine Begetis said. “It was a wonderful collective effort by everybody in the fourth quarter.”

New Canaan (0-8, 0-5 FCIAC) led 22-18 at halftime, 40-31 after three quarters and 46-31 with 5:50 remaining.

Then Westhill’s game-long pressure defense began exacting a toll on New Canaan.

The turnovers allowed Westhill’s Iyanna Lops (eight of her game-high 18 points) and Olivia Wise (six of her 17 points) to drive to the basket for short-range shots.

Lops’ rebound bucket made it 46-44 with 1:34 to go. Kyah Nowlin’s steal and hoop coming out of a New Canaan timeout forged a 46-46 deadlock with 1:09 left.

Gabby Laccona — playing through injuries — made two free throws for a 17-0 surge and a 48-46 Westhill edge with 44 seconds left.

Two free throws by New Canaan’s Campbell Armstrong (17 points, four 3-pointers) tied it at 48-48 with 32.6 seconds to go.

Coming out of a Westhill timeout, a drive by the senior co-captain Wise capped the 19-2 surge and left the Vikings up 50-48 with 6.6 seconds left.

“As a senior Olivia (Wise) is so good at picking up the little things,” Begetis said. “She does the subtle items necessary for victory.”

All Westhill’s work was nearly in vain as a long 3-pointer attempt by Armstrong went in and out at the buzzer.

“I thought the ball was going in,” Westhill’s Begetis admitted later. “It was an example of a mental lapse on our part. Sometimes luck can be as important as effort.”

The sluggish start by Westhill (5-3, 3-2) may have been due in part to the Vikings’ 53-31 win over New Canaan back on December 20.

“Our girls are developing a confidence that they can win. I thought our mental approach changed down the stretch,” Westhill’s Begetis said. “The girls realized time was running out and all hands had to step up.”

It was a tough ending and another trying moment for New Canaan.

“We lost our concentration. But give Westhill credit,” said New Canaan coach Kim Palmer. “It’s a lesson for us. We have to dictate what happens down the stretch in games. This loss stings. But we have to get ready for Wilton Friday. Their pressure defense hurt us, but the effort was there on our side. Campbell’s last shot looked like it was going in to me.”

rich.depreta@scni.com

WESTHILL 50,

NEW CANAAN 48

NEW CANAAN

Campbell Armstrong 5 3-3 17 Karlie Bucci 3 0-2 6 Leigh Charlton 3 2-4 8 Maeve Selvaggi 2 1-2 6 Jane Charlton 0 0-0 0 Reilly Krug 1 0-1 3 Emma Garner 0 0-0 0 Emily Shizari 3 1-1 8. Totals: 17 7-13 48.

WESTHILL (5-3, 3-2 FCIAC)

Iyanna Lops 9 0-0 18 Olivia Wise 6 5-8 17 Samantha Johns-Folks 0 0-2 0 Gabby Laccona 1 5-6 7 Kyah Nowlin 1 3-4 5 Kaleha Morgan 0 0-1 0 Madison Cortell 1 1-2 3 Jessica Rubin 0 0-0 0 Meghan Lavelle 0 0-0 0 Grace Tufano 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 14-23 50.

NEW CANAAN 7 15 18 8 — 48

WESTHILL 8 10 13 19—50

3-Pointers: NC—Armstrong 4, Selvaggi, Krug, Shizari.