All 18 players coach Dave Danko had available -- whether they were varsity or junior varsity team members -- got significant minutes on the court in the Fairfield Warde girls basketball team's 56-26 triumph over visiting Bassick on Tuesday night.
A dozen players got on the score sheet -- some for the first time in their varsity careers. The Mustangs improved to 12-4 overall and 11-3 in FCIAC play, and the Lions remained winless at 0-15.
The Mustangs had a comfortable 20-12 lead at halftime before putting the game out of reach midway into the second half.
Warde passed the ball well to set up good looks at the basket, and made the Lions work for everything. The Mustangs sent Bassick to the free throw line for 28 attempts, and Bassick's shooting woes weren't remedied at the line as the visitors sunk just 10 of those foul shots. A variety of lineups -- sometimes underclassmen combined with experienced seniors, and other times all freshmen and sophomores -- competed for Warde.
"It was interesting to see how they all mixed in with us," senior captain Kaitlin McKenna said of the younger players combining efforts with the team leaders. "Coach tried some new lineups in the game."
"Everybody got their eight minutes," said Danko, adding that he is pleased to have so much depth in talent this winter.
Senior Tiara Fountain led the Mustangs with nine points, senior Kaitlin McKenna had eight, senior Kenzie Burns and sophomore Lejla Markovic both dropped in seven, freshman Ilana Krasniqi had six, and freshman Nicole Vaccarella had five to lead a balance scoring attack. Also for Warde, sophomore Maria Miller and freshman Anna Glovin each had three points, and seniors Michelle Treglia, Carley Strachan and Mary Kate McTague all had two points, as did Jenna Cetta.
"This is good. We have a lot of talent," Danko said. "This gave them an opportunity to show what they can do."
"It was a little nerve-wracking at first," admitted ninth-grader Cetta, who had played in only one other varsity game. "Then I got used to it."
McKenna said she hoped the new varsity players gained some valuable experience by seeing first-hand how the seniors and coach handle game situations. That's something she said paid dividends in her career.
"I was surprised, and it was fun and good to have the experience of playing varsity," Vaccarella said.
"It's a lot more fast-paced and more aggressive," Vaccarella said. "You need to play 110 percent."
Danko thought his players did just that. "They performed well under pressure and they handled it well," he said.
Andy Hutchison is a freelance reporter