Returning less than half its players from last season’s squad which advanced to the state semifinals, the new-look Greenwich High School girls basketball team has shown several positive signs in its first two games of its 2021 campaign, even though the final results weren’t what it hoped for.
After playing well in the first half of its season-opening loss against a strong Staples squad, the Cardinals displayed rhythm and chemistry offensively during the first two quarters of Friday evening’s game against FCIAC foe New Canaan. Holding a five-point halftime advantage, the Cardinals still led by two points heading into the fourth quarter, but the Rams used clutch shooting from the field and free throw line to edge their FCIAC rival.
Senior forward Quinn McKiernan scored a game-high 18 points and junior guard Meghan Driscoll added 16 points, including four 3-pointers to lead visiting New Canaan to a 43-40 comeback win over Greenwich. The Cardinals, who led 27-22 at halftime and 31-29 after three quarters of action, were paced by 15 points from junior forward Camila Jablonski.
“We are definitely young, a lot of our players don’t have experience playing at the varsity level, so we have to adjust,” Greenwich coach Chrys Hernandez said. “The girls are working their hardest and the past two games I can’t fault their effort. They are learning how to play together and finishing. We have a lot of talented players, but we are just working out how to put it all together.”
Driscoll made two key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, while McKiernan scored six points in the final quarter to spark the Rams’ come-from-behind victory. New Canaan outscored Greenwich, 21-13, in the second half.
“In the second half we tried to be a little bit more composed on offense,” New Canaan coach Kim Palmer said. “We tried to run our plays the way that we do in practice. We were able to keep some spacing out on the floor, which helped us.”
During the second half, the Rams were able to get better looks at the basket than they did in the opening half through solid passing.
“Greenwich changed up their defense a couple of times on us and that rattled us, but as soon as we recognized what was going on we were able to put the ball in the hoop,” Palmer said. “It was fun playing them and it was a good game.”
Senior Marielle Povinelli converted three 3-pointers to finish with nine points, junior Kristin Riggs scored eight points and sophomore Sophia Sergio added six points for the Cardinals (0-2). Sergio registered 10 assists and Jablonski, who flourished in the low post, grabbed six rebounds for the home team. Freshman forward Julia Montiero had six rebounds for Greenwich.
“We were strong the first two quarters, but the third quarter, we only had one basket,” Riggs said. “So making sure we have well-rounded points each quarter and making sure we are calm in transition and finishing on those easy shots are key for us.”
A 3-pointer gave New Canaan a 15-10 first-quarter lead, but GHS closed to within 15-13 when Riggs made a layup while being fouled, then converted the ensuing free throw with 4.1 seconds to go in the quarter. Greenwich’s best moments came during the second quarter. Riggs made a jump shot from just within 3-point range and Sergio swished a 3-pointer, giving the Cards a 27-22 halftime advantage.
“Our team has really grown very quickly,” Riggs said. “We’ve done a good job with the amount of practices that we’ve had. The trust in each other and what we have learned was really displayed in the first and second quarter.”
The third quarter saw Greenwich shoot just 1-for-13 from the floor, as New Canaan crept to within 31-29. McKiernan’s layup tied the score at 31-31 with 6:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, then Driscoll made a 3-pointer at the 6:07 mark, putting the Rams ahead for good at 34-31. After Jablonski drove hard to the basket and made a layup, Driscoll buried another shot from beyond the arc, making it 37-33.
“Megan Driscoll played hard from start-to-finish,” Palmer said. “Quinn hitting those shots at the end of the game was big for us, but everybody had an impact today and helped us get that ‘W’.”
Povinelli’s third 3-pointer of the game cut New Canaan’s edge to 37-36 with 5:06 to play. Trailing 41-36 after baskets by McKiernan and sophomore forward Lucia Cravatto, Greenwich again came to within a point, thanks to consecutive baskets by Jablonski.
“She has been doing a great job day by day in building her confidence,” Hernandez said of Jablonski. “We have a lot of confidence in her. Our team is playing with intensity and learning how to handle adversity.”
McKiernan made two free throws in the final seconds to put the Rams on top, 43-40. Greenwich had several opportunities to tie the score, but didn’t convert free throws and layup opportunities in the final minute of play.
“We had a lot of good shots that didn’t go in,” Sergio said. “I think we did pretty well defensively, but I think we still could have done better. Once we get our communication down, we’ll do better. We just have to keep our head in the game and pushing to the end.”
Said Riggs: “Even though we lost our first two games there are a lot of things we can pick up on and I feel like there are little things we can change moving forward.”