Though Sacred Heart Greenwich’s basketball team’s season lacked games due to COVID-19 restrictions, that didn’t mean the athletes on the squad couldn’t sharpen their skills on a daily basis.
The Tigers used the shortened, modified, COVID-19-adjusted season to focus on building chemistry for the future and developing their fundamentals.
“We have really been able to focus on the fundamentals, improving our skills and becoming better as a team,” said Sacred Heart coach Ayo Hart, who recently concluded her fourth season at the helm. “Having those three months of practice, without always having to put in things such as baseline plays for an upcoming game, or discussing game strategy in some ways, helped us improve.”
Until the pause on winter sports was lifted in mid-January and full teams were allowed to practice, Sacred Heart spent more than a month holding drill-related practices for its players in cohorts of four athletes at a time.
“We spent most of November until the pause was over working on shooting and ball-handling,” Hart said. “We had a three-on-three outdoor tournament and we had very intensive four-player workout sessions. Liz Dennison (Sacred Heart’s athletic director) was great in helping us keep everything going.”
When the winter sports season resumed on Jan. 19, the Tigers were able to come together as a full team and prepare for their scrimmage games. Sacred Heart played five scrimmages, the last of which took place Wednesday at St. Luke’s School. The Tigers also scrimmaged Greenwich Country Day School, Greenwich Academy and Greens Farms Academy.
Hart was highly impressed with her team’s performance in each matchup.
“We were able to put up between 61 and 70-point games in three of our first four games,” Hart said. “The team has looked great, I’m really impressed with them and I’m very proud of them. We have become an offensive powerhouse at times, everyone on our court can score. That’s been really fun, because I know the defense is going to be there.”
Senior guard Alana Frederick and junior forward/center Sarah Augustine served as the captains. Frederick, a four-year varsity player, will continue her athletic career at Carnegie Mellon University, where she will play on the soccer team.
“Our captains are incredibly supportive and encouraging,” Hart said. “They have really done a great job of bringing the team together and making everyone feel comfortable.”
Joining Frederick, who displayed a solid shooting touch, in the backcourt were Madison Hart, Ayo’s daughter and Payton Sfreddo. Madison Hart and Sfreddo are freshman, who began their varsity careers last season as eighth graders. One of the team’s leading scorers last season, Sfreddo sparked the squad offensively in each of its scrimmage games.
“Peyton is an offensive powerhouse,” Ayo Hart said. “She can score from everywhere on the court and she can finish around the rim in traffic. “Madison is a defensive powerhouse for us averaging, five steals a game. She really has improved and she is looking to score a little bit more this year ,while doing a good job of getting the ball to our post players.”
Junior guard/forward Franny O’Brien emerged as one of the Tigers’ defensive stoppers.
“Franny plays aggressive defense,” Hart said. “She is a master of disrupting the other team. We really look to Franny now to shut down other team’s opponents. Her offensive game has come along as well.”
The 6-foot-2 Augustine was impressive in the post and also displayed shooting touch from the perimeter.
“She has developed a very proficient three point shot,” Hart said of Augustine. She is a great a shot blocker a good rebounder and she is really smart on defense. It’s exciting to have her coming back next year.”
Sophomore Olivia Caponiti (5’10) provided stellar production at the power forward position.
“Olivia has a great shooting touch, good hands and her defense has improved tremendously this year,” Hart said.
Freshman Victoria Hart, Madison’s twin sister, also gives the team a defensive presence on the court. Coach Hart said Victoria “is one of the quickest kids on the court, with quick hands and feet.”
At 6-3, freshman center Kaitlin Robinson has effectively backed up Augustine.
“She fights for rebounds and does a great job of running the floor,” Hart said. “Madison and Payton are good at finding Sarah and Kaitlin in the post.”
Junior Kate Hong provided depth and significant rebounding at the forward position, while Maddie Hooper (5’11), a freshman, showed the ability to finish inside and make shots from the perimeter.
“We came together so well as a team and almost everyone is coming back next year, which is exciting,” coach Hart said. “The energy of the team was great throughout the season. “