Twice in Monday’s game against Fairfield Warde, the Greenwich girls basketball team cut a double-digit deficit to just two points in the FCIAC matchup, which featured several spurts by both squads.
But Warde junior Maya Henry made sure her team embarked on the game’s final, decisive run.
With the Mustangs holding a tenuous two-point lead with less than two minutes remaining, Henry seized control, scoring the game’s final nine points and sealing Warde’s 50-39 win over the host Cardinals.
A junior, Henry scored a game-high 23 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead Warde (2-3).
“We want the ball in Maya’s hands,” Warde coach David Danko said. “They went to a box-and-one and we did a good job of running her off some picks. She is a junior who has the ability to take over a game and she did.”
Senior Teagan Tully added 12 points, while teammate Mia Caruso, a sophomore, totaled seven points for the Mustangs. The visitors held a 37-22 advantage following the third quarter, before Greenwich stormed back. The Cardinals (1-4), were paced by senior Beatriz Owens, who scored 12 points off the bench. Sophomore Sophia Sergio had nine points and junior Kayla Anderson scored eight points for Greenwich, which has trailed in single digits in three of its four losses in the final minutes of play.
“It’s just a pretty frustrating pattern that we have been experiencing since the beginning of the season,” said Greenwich coach Chrys Hernandez, whose squad was coming off a 47-42 victory against Norwalk. “We have the talent on the team and we have the capability. We battled back two or three times, which has been the most consistent thing we’ve shown all year – our effort.”
The Cardinals found themselves in a 41-29 hole after Warde’s Grace Conway banked in a runner in the lane midway through the fourth quarter. Greenwich responded with a 10-0 run to close to within a basket. Riggs, a junior guard, swished a 3-pointer, then Owens converted a shot from beyond the arc from the left corner, making it 41-35 at the 3:35 mark of the fourth quarter.
Sergio, a guard, made a 3-pointer from the right side and junior Gillian Frey hit one of two foul shots, bringing the home team to within 41-39 with 2:30 left in the final quarter.
“We came back twice from 10 points and it worked when we started passing the ball and moving it quickly,” Riggs said. “I feel like we struggle when are we holding the ball too long and we don’t share the ball. We need to make sure we are swinging it before we put up the shot.”
Henry gave the Mustangs a little more breathing room when she swished a short jump shot with 1:35 remaining, making it 43-39. She scored off a layup after the Cards missed their ensuing shot, then made five of her six free throw attempts in the game’s final minute.
“We definitely let them get on that little run to catch up and we knew we had to step it up a little if we wanted to win,” Henry said. “Really it all came down to us hustling and going for every rebound that we could get.”
Greenwich held Warde scoreless for the game’s first 5:35, but couldn’t fully capitalize. The Cardinals scored just five points during that span to take a 5-0 lead. The Mustangs ended the first quarter with a quick 10-0 run, behind five points from Henry.
“We have to focus on taking advantage of the opportunities we are getting,” said Hernandez, whose Cardinals played both a zone and man-to-man defense.
Added Henry: “We started off a little slow, but once we got into our game and were able to play our game and not speed it up and turn the ball over a lot, it went better for us.”
Tully scored off a layup after receiving a pass on the run from Henry, putting the Mustangs in front, 17-7, early in the second quarter. The Cards sliced the Mustangs’ lead to 17-15 on four free throws by forward Julia Monteiro, a baseline jumper by Anderson and an Anderson layup off an inbounds pass. With the score tied at 19-19, forward Allie Ortiz swished a 15-footer as the buzzer sounded, giving Warde a 21-19 edge heading into halftime.
“We’re doing good, we just have to mentally focus in on every game and we have to tell each other on the court that we have to be confident in our abilities,” said Owens, who sparked Greenwich with 10 second-half points. “Just being confident in our abilities when go up against all these teams is important.”
A decisive third quarter that saw Warde outscore Greenwich 16-3 enabled it build a 15-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Tully scored six points during the quarter to pace the visitors.
“That was an excellent quarter for us,” Danko said. “I like the character of the team, we weathered the storm. It’s a good win for our team and we can build off this going into tomorrow night and the rest of the week.”
Said Henry: “Coach really got us back into it, he switched up their defense. We got back to our 2-3, after our 1-3-1 kind of fell apart a little bit.”
Greenwich hosts Fairfield Ludlowe on Thursday at 5 p.m.
“It’s the easy shots we have to put in, we can do it,” said Riggs, who scored five points. “It’s frustrating, because it’s been three games like that where we were down three or five at the end of the game. We need to be able to work together and put the ball in the basket.”
Anderson, a forward, believes the team has it in them to finish games strong.
“Coming back from those two 10-point deficits, it shows that we have the ability, but we can’t ever relax and bring down the energy,” Anderson said. “t’s been almost four games now that we have been in this position. We have the ability to finish and deliver, we just have to put it together.”