DARIEN--Holding a team scoreless for the opening quarter is no easy task, but that's exactly what New Canaan did to Darien Monday in the consolation round of the LaVista girls basketball tournament, and it paid dividends.

The Rams defeated Darien 35-23 behind a strong defensive effort to claim third place in the tournament after falling to Staples 39-26 in the opening round.

"We started off strong, which was good," New Canaan coach Kim Palmer said. "It built momentum for us and we were able to capitalize on it and come out with the win."

The Rams (3-4) have had a roller-coaster year in the early going, but have won three of their last four, a trend Palmer hopes continues.

"The thing that's happening with us is that were getting better every game," Palmer said. "Today it showed, we ran our offense really well today, the girls were being patient and things are starting to fall for us."

Darien (3-4), on the other hand, really couldn't find a way to get things going after the opening quarter drought. Casey Ryan came off the bench as a point guard and was able to ignite some offense, but the Wave couldn't capitalize on their looks.

"They played us really well man to man and we couldn't find a rhythm offensively," Darien coach Katie Lauten said. "When you can't make free throws or open shots its tough, it hurts not only on the scoreboard but for your confidence."

Playing with an altered lineup, Darien struggled to find the bottom of the net, but Lauten wasn't at all disappointed with how her girls performed.

"We had a different personnel group in there than we're used to," Lauten said. "But everyone out there was giving 100 percent; we had a younger group than were used to playing with and we just had to make due and the girls did the best they could."

Trying to hold on to the lead and ice the game in the waning minutes Palmer turned to her leader Elizabeth Miller, who didn't score in the contest but facilitated the offense all night and handled the ball when the team couldn't afford a mistake.

"She's just an all-around great athlete," Palmer said of her captain. "She excels in all the sports she plays and to have her be a part of the program is great; she's a leader on and off the court and we usually want the ball in her hands and when that happens good things follow."

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP

New Canaan 35, Darien 23

NEW CANAAN (3-4)

Marina Braccio 3 2-5 8 Erica Smith 1 0-0 2 Elizabeth Miller 0 0-2 0 Katie DeMarino 3 3-4 9 Kylie Murphy 1 0-0 3 Campbell Armstrong 4 0-0 11 Ellie Aliapoulios 1 0-0 2. Totals: 13 5-11 35

DARIEN (3-4)

Kaeleigh Morrill 3 2-4 8 Kate Richter 0 3-7 3 Emily Coyle 0 1-2 1 Avery Maley 2 1-4 5 Hailey Kingman 2 0-0 6. Totals: 7 7-17 23.

NEW CANAAN 7 12 10 6--35

DARIEN 0 10 5 8--23

3-pointers: NC--Murphy, Armstrong 3; D--Kingman 2.