WESTPORT, Conn. – The Staples High School’s girls basketball team has made the state tournament every year since 1985. The Wreckers have some work to do over the next three weeks if they are to accomplish that goal this season.
Staples takes a 5-9 overall record and a 5-7 mark in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference into Tuesday’s game against St. Joseph. Staples needs to win three of its remaining six games to advance to the Class LL tournament.
Staples’ streak is the second longest in the state, according to coach Ed Huydic, and reaching the playoffs is the goal he sets for his team each season.
“When you’ve been in the state tournament every year since 1985, the first thing we say to the girls to establish the baseline is to keep the streak going,’’ Huydic said. “We’re at the point where we need three more, and we have some big games to go. It’ll be quite a challenge, and it will be a story line worth following.”
Games this week are critical for the Wreckers. They play Tuesday vs. St. Joseph (3-11 overall) and Friday vs. Fairfield Warde (7-7). Wilton, Westhill and Trumbull, who have a combined five league losses between them, also await them. Staples also will likely need to beat Greenwich (7-8 overall) in the final week of the season to get into the state tournament.
“I’m confident,’’ Huydic said after a 45-30 loss to Darien last week. “I think the girls are confident. If they continue to play like they did tonight for the final three quarters, I feel we can get over the hump. Is it important? Yes, it’s always important. I think it’s the goal of every coach in the state.”
Staples’ shortcoming this winter has been on the offensive end. Huydic’s teams have thrived on defense, and generally muster enough on offense to squeak out tight victories.
The Wreckers lost a big weapon from last year’s team when Jess Coelho (14.8 points per game) graduated. Emily Stein (12.5 per game last year) and Nikki Bukovsky (10.1) were terrific as supporting scorers last year. Without Coelho’s inside presence, Staples’ scoring average has dipped nearly 10 points this season.
“We don’t have as much offensive firepower as we’d like, and that has been a story line all season,’’ Huydic said. “But these girls give it everything they have. We were on the cusp of stealing one against Darien, but it didn’t happen, unfortunately.”
Staples has scored 40 points or fewer in eight games this season, all of them losses. Huydic started two sophomores against Darien, center Madeline Schemel and forward/guard Abby Lustig. They’re going to have to become big contributors down the stretch if the Wreckers are to extend its state playoff streak.
“Madeline is becoming more aggressive, and Abby plays with no fear,’’ Huydic said. “Some of the kids coming off the bench are starting to get the varsity mentality. We’re going to give it everything we have for the rest of the season.”