FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Norwalk’s Aly Furgiuele and six others on the Notre Dame of Fairfield girls basketball team celebrated Senior Night on Tuesday with a 41-31 victory over Brookfield -- one of many reasons for the Lancers to celebrate this season.
They have won nine of their last 10 games heading into Thursday’s regular-season finale against New Milford and stand 16-3 overall. They are ranked second in Class M and will be seeded third or fourth for the South-West Conference tournament.
Notre Dame is having its best season since 2007-08, when it finished 18-4. With an extended run in the league and state tournaments, the Lancers could approach or surpass the 21-win team of 2006-07.
The team’s success has been built on the back of its senior class, which endured losing seasons in its first two years, including an 8-13 campaign as freshmen. Furgiuele, Katie Edwards, Jerlisa Thomas, Tyanna Palmer and McKenzie Stone have been at the school for the entire ride. Amber James and Jovan Kingwood transferred in last year.
“I think the thing that has really improved is our chemistry,’’ sad Furgiuele, a 5-foot, 11-inch center who scored five points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Tuesday’s win. “When you’re watching, you can’t really see it. Sometimes you can see bits and pieces when we get on a good run. If you don’t like each other, you can’t play well together. It’s going to show up on the court. I think that’s the best part about this year.”
The foundation for Notre Dame’s success was laid during the last three seasons. Most of them also played together on an AAU team last summer, and that commitment helped set the stage for this season’s success.
“These kids have set a benchmark of working in the off-season, working on their game and wanting to get better to put themselves in a position that they could win 16 or 17 games,’’ coach Eric DeMarco said. “That’s senior leadership. Our locker room seems to be more on the same page than it ever has been.”
Kingwood has been the team’s offensive leader, and James provides a steadying influence at point guard. Furgiuele gives them a low-post presence and is a strong rebounder and good defender. All of the seniors have contributed offensively.
But the Lancers mostly live with their defense. They rank second in the conference in points allowed and have held opponents to less than 40 points in 11 games. Notre Dame goes through periods of offensive frustration but finds a way to get key baskets.
“I think you can hang your hat on defense in the playoffs, but you become vulnerable on nights when the shots aren’t falling,’’ DeMarco said. “You just have to make sure that you make enough shots.”
Seasons like this are special, especially for seniors making the most of their final shot.
“It has been fun to see how the season has progressed,’’ Furgiuele said. “As it progressed, we knew we had to work to meet expectations along the way.”