DANBURY, Conn. – Danbury girls basketball coach Jackie DiNardo is not terribly concerned about replacing graduated center Casey Smith from last year’s conference champions. One of the primary reasons is because she still has a talented guard tandem in twins Rachel and Rebecca Gartner.
The Gartner Girls combined for 26 points and seven rebounds Wednesday in the Hatters’ 58-35 win over Norwalk. Danbury improved to 3-0 on the young season as it looks to defend its Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference title.
“We don’t have Casey, but at the same time if I don’t have a point guard that can get the ball down to the post it doesn’t matter,’’ said DiNardo, who guided the Hatters to their first conference title last winter. “I’ve been with Rebecca and Rachel since they were 10 years old in AAU. We’ve been working all the way through with them. They’re the last two in the gym all the time. They love the game, and they’re still getting better.”
DiNardo knows how reliable the Gartners can be from February’s league tournament. Smith, now on the roster at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia, was lost for the season in a 51-38 semifinal win over Wilton. The Gartners combined for 27 points in the victory. In a 54-39 win over Trumbull in the final, they combined for 35 points, 15 rebounds and six steals and shared MVP honors. Danbury finished 25-1, losing in the Class LL quarterfinals to eventual champion Newtown.
The Gartners will be counted on heavily this season, but they seem suited to do it. “They’ve been working at point guard and off guard,’’ DiNardo said. “They’re good shooters and good rebounders. They can do it all.”
How far Danbury can advance at tournament time in February might come down to the team’s supporting cast. Kayla Handberry is averaging nine rebounds a game so far, and Uniqua Tucker (8.7 points) and Allie Smith (8.0 points) have added scoring balance.
“I feel great about my team,’’ DiNardo said. “There’s a lot of athletic ability. We still have some kinks to work out, and we're making too many turnovers. But we’re working hard and I know they want to get back there.”
Danbury has won 24 straight games against league competition, and probably won’t face a competitive game until January. A week into the season, the Hatters are one of only four teams still unbeaten in the league.
“We’re going to make a run at the FCIAC championship this year,’’ Rebecca Gartner said.
“And states,’’ Rachel added. “We want to win states this year, too.”
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