The teary Westport girls basketball team received hugs from teammates, family and friends after falling to Sutton 46-35 in a defensive battle on Friday night. The Wildcats ended their super season …
The teary Westport girls basketball team received hugs from teammates, family and friends after falling to Sutton 46-35 in a defensive battle in the Division 5 Elite 8 on Friday night. The Wildcats ended their super season with a record of 16-4. Senior co-captain Leah Sylvain scored a game high 15 points in her final game. The senior has been a phenomenal player for the Wildcats during her six year career. She scored an outstanding 1401 points and will surely be missed by her teammates and the coaching staff next season.
“Leah really took this team on he back and led us this far,” said Wildcats head coach Jen Gargiulo. “This was an outstanding season. She really has been a role model for them and I’ve been lucky. I have had six seasons with her. She is an unbelievable player. She is an unbelievable person.”
Junior co-captain Korynne Holden found her after the game and wrapped her up in a huge bear hug.
“I’ve been playing basketball with Leah all of my life,” said Holden. “It’s a bittersweet moment. I know that she’s going to go off and do great things. But I’m going to miss her next season.”
She also spoke about Sylvain as a teammate this season.
“We were like a duo,” Holden said, her voice quivering. “Leah and I had, like, a sister chemistry, that can’t really be replaced. It sucks that she is leaving, but I’m proud of her. She played great this season.”
Short-handed from the start
Westport began the game short-handed, without starters Julia George and Tess Sylvia, who were away on a school trip. The Wildcats who pulled even three times and led just once, battled during the closely contested game and played valiantly down the stretch. They were also forced to play without co-captain Sarah Perry who was injured in the first quarter.
“These kids never gave up,” said Wildcats head coach Jen Gargiulo. “They put 110 percent into everything that they did and they fought hard. I told them to hold their heads high, this was a remarkable season.”
Holden keeps Westport afloat
The Wildcats played with jitters early on, with the exception of Holden, who started the game like she was shot out of a cannon. Holden made steals and scored 6 first quarter points off the fastbreak to keep pace with Sutton who took a 7-4 lead in the first quarter.
Westport forward Sarah Perry knew the Wildcats needed a basket at the time and attempted to muscle her way to the hoop. Perry, instead, bounced off Sutton big Ava Carroll and fell hard to the floor. She immediately gripped her knee and grimmaced in pain. After being evaluated, the junior was helped off the court by Coach Garguilo and the training staff.
Senior Shelby Orr came on to play for Perry. Holden kept up her pace and made another steal and layup to cut the lead to 7-6. Jenna Egbe made one of two free throws to tie the game, 7-7, but Theresa Sartiah, who scored 14 points for Sutton, put back a layup at the end of the quarter to give the Suzies a 9-7 lead.
The teams were mired in a defensive struggle for much of the second quarter. Until Sutton broke out for 11 points to take a 20-13 halftime lead. Sartiah scored 7 points for the Suzies. Eighth grader Courtney Clemens sank one of four 3-pointers and Carroll sank one of two free throws. Westport scored just 6 points during the quarter, a put-back by Orr and four free throws by Sylvain who got to the line twice.
Sylvain who had visible bruises on he arms and legs from driving into the Suzies’ gauntlet of bodies guarding the basket, broke out for 7 points in the third quarter as the Wildcats mounted a comeback. The senior drained a 3-pointer, a jumper and a layup as Westport took a brief lead during the third quarter.
Orr drained a jumper to cut the lead to 20-15. Sylvain made it 20-18 with her three. Holden got to the line and netted one of two. Junior big, Meghan Molly, playing the wing for the first time this season, got to the line as well and sank them both to slice the lead to 22-21.
“Meghan literally has never played on wing in her life,” said Sylvain. “She played wing the whole game and did a phenomenal job and Shelby she played phenomenal.”
Holden swung a pass to Sylvain at the top of the key, the senior elevated for a jumper and sank it to give Westport a 23-22 lead with 4:21 left in the third quarter.
Twenty seconds later Sutton took back the lead on a 3-pointer by Clemens. Sartiah sank a free throw for a Suzies’ 25-23 lead.
Egbe, who did a terrific job of rebounding all game, grabbed an offensive rebound that fell off the left side of the basket, the center twirled, stepped right and let go a right-handed hook-shot that fell into the basket and evened the score 25-25 with 2:26 left in the third quarter.
Moments later, Sylvain drove through Suzies' defenders and put up a layup to tie the score again, 27-27, that rose the Westport fans to their feet. But a Suzies’ free throw gave them a 28-27 advantage to end the third quarter.
“We were all exhausted,” said Sylvain after the game. “We had to readjust in ways that we never thought we would have too.”
Fourth quarter: Suzies induce Wildcats into errors
The Suzies took a 31-27 lead on Clemens fourth 3-pointer and kept it with the Wildcats nipping at their heels. Holden sliced in and sank a two handed jumper to cut the lead to 34-31. Sutton head coach John Doldoorian went into desperation mode when Sylvain drove through three Suzies’ defenders and threw up a two-handed submarine layup to cut the lead to 34-33 with 3:50 left in the game. He called a time out and devised a plan to put pressure on Sylvain immediately after she got over half court and it worked. The Suzies induced the tired Wildcats into making errors and scored nine unanswered points to take a 43-33 lead with 1:58 to play.
“I couldn’t have been happier with how the season turned out,” Sylvain said after the game. “It would have been great to win, but I’m just so proud of how everyone played and how everyone stepped up. I couldn’t have asked for more than what we got. I’m going to miss my time. I’m going to miss my coach.”
“I’m just incredibly proud of them,” Coach Garguilo said. “As a coach, that’s all you can ask for, is a team that doesn’t give up. Plays for each other and plays with heart. Even when a captain goes down. They just keep working. You can’t ask much more from these kids.”
Westport scoring: Leah Sylvain scored 15 points, Korynne Holden netted 9 points, Jenna Egbe scored 5, Shelby Orr scored 4, Meghan Molloy added 2.