Girls Basketball: Warde at Danbury Almeida, Danbury sink Warde
DANBURY — With seconds ticking down, she didn’t have much choice left but to shoot from no-man’s land.
And on a night the Danbury girls basketball team was honoring one of their own, it somehow found the bottom of the net.
Susana Almeida’s long 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left sent the Hatters to a dramatic 37-35 win over Fairfield Warde Friday night in their annual Coaches vs. Cancer game.
Win No. 499 — and the 11th straight overall to improve to 11-3 — for Hatters coach Jackie DiNardo was likely one of the most dramatic, and on her favorite night of the season. The Hatters gym was turned pink in honor of late husband Robert DiNardo and a ceremonial tip-off took place before the contest.
“It’s awesome,” said DiNardo. “All of these people come out for my husband; he’s a truly missed man and people come out of the woodwork for him. It’s amazing how many remember even 10 years later.”
The full gym erupted when Almeida caught a pass from Tanisha Cunningham, spun around, took a dribble and drilled a shot from about 25 feet.
“I was relieved and surprised myself,” Almeida said. “Everyone was jumping with me and I was thinking: I did that. We were going to lose, and I helped us pull off win No. 499.”
Almeida’s stunning winner came seconds after Mustangs senior Caroline Aufiero converted a drive with about 10 seconds left to give the visitors a 35-34 lead. Aufiero also hit a pair of free throws to give Warde a 33-32 lead with 30 seconds left.
“Senior captain, senior moment,” said Warde coach Dave Danko of Aufiero’s late plays. “Those were big free throws.”
Almeida was then fouled going to the basket, and sunk both to temporarily give Danbury a 34-33 advantage.
Chaos then ensued.
“She does that in clutch situations,” DiNardo said. “She’s not afraid to put that pressure on top of herself. That’s her leadership and being a senior.”
The Mustangs controlled most of the close contest and held a 31-27 lead with 3:49 left after a 3-pointer by Toni Lamparski. Aufiero and Aleysha Henry each scored 10 points for Warde. Tianna Rogers led the Hatters with 12 points while Almeida added 11.
“It’s hard to tell these kids because they played so hard and prepared so well,” Danko said. “This would have helped us for our push to the FCIAC playoffs; now we have to continue to (take) care of business.”
DiNardo will go for win No. 500 at home Tuesday against Stamford at 7 p.m.
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO
Jackie and Robert joined the Hatters program the same season and coached together for more than 20 years. A rare husband-wife tandem on the sideline produced an even greater bond.
“Everybody would say we came to watch you two,” Jackie said. “We would be arguing about a play and the game is going on. It was fun; he was a great coach and the kids loved him. It was a plus to our program.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Susana Almeida, Danbury: Five points in the last 20 seconds snatched victory away from the Mustangs.
“With those three losses (to start the year) I thought it was going to be like last year when we come close and never pull away,” said Almeida. “Now we’re pulling away with the wins we should have.”
DANBURY 37, WARDE 35
Aleysha Henry 4 0-0 10 Toni Lamparski 3 0-0 9 Ava Fitzpatrick 1 0-0 2 Kristina Krasniqi 1 2-2 4 Caroline Aufiero 3 4-4 10. Totals: 12 6-6 35.
Tianna Rogers 6 0-1 12 Sabrina Almeida 0 0-0 0 Susana Almeida 3 2-2 11 Tanisha Cunningham 3 0-0 6Ty’Lynn Ith 1 1-2 3 Kianna Perry 2 1-2 5. Totals: 15 4-7 37.
WARDE 7 10 6 12 — 35
DANBURY 8 7 6 16 — 37
3-pointers: W--Henry 2, Lamparski 3; D--Susana Almeida 3.