Recommended Video:

The Darien Blue Wave took to their home court on Monday night intent on avenging a 44-36 midseason loss to the Wilton Warriors, and after building up a 21-11 halftime lead, they looked well on their way to doing exactly that. However, Wilton responded with an impressive second half effort, highlighted by a relentless defense that permitted only seven second half points by the Blue Wave en route to a 34-28 victory in the opening round of the Class L State tournament.

The teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 26-26, and Darien quickly got the lead back on Meg Marren's final two of a game-high 17 points, but the 28-26 advantage also represented the last time the Blue Wave would be ahead. Consecutive buckets from Wilton's Alyssa Malvarosa gave Wilton its first lead of the game, and the Warriors would not relinquish it.

"We're a young team. We scored seven points in the second half, so [Wilton] shut everyone down," Darien coach Gary Peterson said. "Give them a lot of credit. They fought. They got some baskets and they never gave up. All we can do is learn from this."

The Blue Wave (No. 14 seed, 13-7 in the regular season) could do little wrong in the first half, as Nicole Buch made decisive passes to Marren, who finished the plays with several sure-handed layups. Marren notched 10 of her 17 points in the second quarter to help stake Darien to a 21-11 halftime advantage.

Wilton (No. 19 seed, 11-9 in the regular season) coach Jaclyn Woitkowski indicated that it was crucial for her team to make several defensive adjustments at halftime, as well as come out with a bit more urgency.

"In the second half, we played our game," Woitkowski said. "The second half was Wilton basketball. The first half, unfortunately, was not. Halftime was not a fun halftime, but they responded."

The Warriors began the second half with a quick 6-0 run to cut the Darien lead to just 21-17. Wilton would continue to chip away at Darien's lead, and a basket by Fulton at the end of the third quarter pulled the Warriors even for the first time all night at 26-26.

Though the momentum had swung in Wilton's favor, Darien was still confident that it could pull out the win in the game's final frame.

"They had some good shots, they made some tough shots," Marren said. "We thought we could still win, but it didn't work out."

The Warriors would go on to score the final eight points of the game for the victory.

"Offensively, they kept getting the ball to [Fulton], and she kept dominating," said Buch, who notched four points. "Defensively, they didn't really do much. We just turned the ball over. I'm very proud of this season. We're young, so they're still looking good for next year."

Fulton scored a game-high 17 points for Wilton, and Casey Pearsall also reached double digits by dropping 10 points.

The Warriors will face a tall task on Thursday, as they'll travel to take on the No. 3 seed Torrington Red Raiders (19-1), but Fulton thinks her team is up to the challenge.

"We've just got to box out and try to shut their two good players down, and I think we'll be fine," Fulton said. "We really wanted to win tonight. At halftime, Coach told us that we weren't playing like we usually do and that we're a better team than that, so we kind of just focused in and played our game in the second half."

On the plus side for Darien, the Blue Wave will graduate only three seniors (Buch, Julia Boulton and Shannon Burke) and should remain a formidable contender in the FCIAC.

"I'm confident about next year because we're a young team," Marren said. "It's looking good for the future and we'll just hope for a better outcome next year."