No matter what sport is being played or what record a particular team has, when it comes to New Canaan versus Darien it’s usually a must-see event. Saturday afternoon’s girls basketball tilt between the Rams and the Blue Wave was another memorable chapter in what is undoubtedly the best rivalry in the conference, if not the state.
Lindsay Dimonekas’ put-back with 20 seconds left in the fourth overtime proved to be the difference-maker as the Wave outlasted the Rams 43-42 in an epic, marathon showdown at New Canaan High School.
“I’m exhausted,” Darien head coach Melba Chambers said. “I told them that I didn’t have any more plays for us to run so we have to make our shots. It was tough — our kids played really hard. I told them we need to have that same energy and fight every game. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we can’t pick and choose.”
With the win Darien improved to 2-4 on the season, while the Rams dropped their second straight contest to fall to 3-3 overall. An inability to sink foul shots ultimately sunk New Canaan, as the Rams were 7-for-26 (26.9%) from the line against Darien.
“The number one thing I say to the girls before every game is that they have to be locked in and focused,” New Canaan head coach John Winchester said. “We turned over the ball with a lot of unforced turnovers and we missed a ton of free throws. But we were still in it until the end to win the game. I’m just trying to get them to believe that we’re a good team.”
New Canaan got off to a fast start, as sophomore Quinn McKiernan opened the game up with a three-pointer. Baskets from juniors Jane Charlton and Katherine Dunn plus a layup from senior co-captain Emily Shizari gave the Rams a 9-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Darien made some defensive adjustments in the second quarter as the Wave outscored New Canaan 15-6 to take a 17-15 halftime lead. Freshman Erika Stephens nailed a pair of three-pointers and junior Kelly Richter added five points in the quarter, including a three that gave Darien its first lead of the game, 12-11 with 2:46 left in the half.
Darien continued to build its lead in the third behind strong defensive play, limiting New Canaan to just a single point in the quarter. Dimonekas added four of her team-high 15 points to extend the Wave edge to 23-16 heading into the fourth quarter.
Darien led New Canaan 27-18 after Dimonekas drained a pair of free throws, matching its biggest lead of the game with 3:38 left in regulation.
New Canaan, however, did not give up.
The Rams went on a 9-0 run, capped off by a three from McKiernan that tied the game up at 27 with less than two minutes left to play. Neither team was able to score for the rest of the period, sending the game into overtime.
After a scoreless first OT, New Canaan seemed poised to take the game as a McKiernan three and a pair of baseline floaters from junior Katherine Lisecki gave the Rams a 34-31 lead with 1:21 left on the clock.
After Darien cut the lead to 34-32, New Canaan missed three consecutive foul shots with less than a minute left. Darien freshman Maggie Ramsay banked in a turnaround jumper with eight seconds remaining to force a third overtime with the game knotted at 34.
Free throws impacted the game again in OT number-three as Darien was 2-for-2 from the stripe while New Canaan was 2-for-6. Still, New Canaan had a great chance to win the game, but two open looks at the basket with time running out kept the game tied at 36, setting up a fourth extra session.
The Rams jumped out to a 38-36 lead on a Lisecki layup before Darien ran off the next five points on free throws by Richter and Dimonekas and a three from Stephens.
Charlton’s put-back pulled New Canaan to within one, 41-40, with 1:26 left, and a pair of free throws from Lisecki put the Rams up 42-41 with 1:17 remaining.
Darien grabbed the lead one final time as Dimonekas grabbed the offensive board and went up strong with the follow, making it 43-42 Wave with :20 to play. New Canaan had one last chance as Charlton took an inbound pass with 1.1 seconds on the clock and put up a baseline floater at the buzzer. The shot rimmed out, however, and the Wave escaped with an exhilarating win — a win Chambers hopes can be a building block for Darien moving forward.
“Now they know what it takes to compete,” Chambers said. “Now they have the confidence to do it. They’ve seen it. They’ve done it. That’s the biggest thing with a team of young kids. We just have to get that confidence factor down and I think we’ll be really good down the stretch.”
Darien 43, New Canaan 42 (4 OT)
Saturday, Dec. 29 at NCHS
Darien 2-5-6-4-0-7-2-7 43
New Canaan 9-6-1-11-0-2-7-6 42
Darien: Lindsay Dimonekas 3 8-12 15, Erika Stephens 3 1-3 11, Rachel Stobbie 2 3-4 7, Kelly Richter 2 1-2 6, Maggie Ramsay 2 0-0 4. Totals 13 12-20 43
NC: Jane Charlton 7 1-9 15, Quinn McKiernan 3 0-0 9, Katherine Lisecky 3 3-6 9, Katie Dunn 1 3-6 5, Emily Shizari 1 0-5 2, Kearney McKiernan 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 7-26 42
3 pointers: D – Stephens 3, Richter, Dimonekas; NC – Q. McKiernan 3