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Fairfield Warde Suffers Key Loss in Playoff Chase

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The good news for the Fairfield Warde High girls basketball team is that it can still qualify for the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference postseason tournament. The bad news is the Mustangs let a golden opportunity to clinch a berth slip away Monday night.

Darien outscored the Mustangs, 17-10, in the pivotal fourth quarter to post a 49-42 win in Darien. Warde fell to 10-7 in the league and 12-7 overall. Stamford, Staples and Darien have identical league records as they battle for the final two playoff berths.

Warde meets Stamford on Wednesday in Fairfield, and the winner should make the playoffs. Both teams beat Staples during the regular season. Darien meets winless Bassick in its regular-season finale.

“We’re undefeated at home,’’ Warde coach Dave Danko said. “Outside of Fairfield we haven’t played well. We won 10 games at home, and we won two in a tournament at Fairfield Ludlowe. So that’s a positive.”

Monday’s performance was anything but positive for the Mustangs, who committed 29 turnovers and were badly beaten on the boards and to loose balls. Jamera Fountain and Tiara Fountain had 12 each for the Mustangs.

“We were tentative with our passes,’’ Danko said. “We fought hard, and we were pulling out games like this all year. But when our guards turn the ball over like that, we’re not going to win a game and we’re not going to qualify for the FCIAC playoffs.”

Even playing poorly, the Mustangs were in it late. They were tied at 36-36 with 5:22 left before Darien’s Meg Marren scored to put the Blue Wave ahead to stay. Warde trailed 43-40 with 1:11 left but turned the ball over on its next possession. Amy Biggart hit two free throws with 59 seconds left, and the Blue Wave hit four free throws in the final 44 seconds.

Warde trailed 26-17 in the second quarter but rallied to take the lead twice in the second half, the last time on two free throws by Kate Kerrigan with 7:43 left. Down the stretch, however, Warde turned the ball over and missed some decent shots.

“Darien executed their game plan,’’ Danko said. “They got out on our shooters and didn’t cover our girls who don’t need to be covered.”

Warde had won eight of its last nine and is surging toward the playoffs. Now the Mustangs have to win their final game to make it. “We’re going to try our hardest,’’ Danko said. “I’m so upset I’m ready to go practice tonight.”

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