Following an extremely slow start, Greenwich’s girls basketball team knew it had to finish its game against visiting Westhill with a flurry.
Kristin Riggs and Hayley Wilson made sure the Cardinals did.
Riggs, a junior point guard, scored a team-high 17 points and Wilson, a junior, totaled 11 of her 13 points in the second half to pace Greenwich to a 50-43 comeback win over a scrappy Westhill team on Thursday night.
With the victory, Greenwich upped its record to 4-7, heading into Friday’s regular season finale against St. Joseph in Trumbull. The Cardinals begin play in the FCIAC Tournament on Wednesday. Currently, Greenwich is seeded No. 12 in the FCIAC and will be on the road in tournament’s Round of 16 against the fifth-place team.
It took a lot of second-half energy and spirit for the Cardinals to overcome a Vikings squad, which started strong and played well throughout. Westhill seized a 9-0 lead, held Greenwich scoreless until the 1:42 mark of the first quarter and ended the opening stanza with an 11-2 advantage.
“We started off slower than slow, we can’t afford to have those slow starts,” said Greenwich coach Chrys Hernandez, who went to her bench two minutes into the first quarter, after Westhill took a 4-0 lead. “We talked at halftime about turning it up, paying more attention to detail and being aggressive. That second group did a heck of a job of attacking the basket and moving the ball.”
The Vikings (2-10) received 17 points from senior guard Maddy Bautista, who converted three 3-pointers.
“We played really well, I’m very happy with the way we played,” Westhill coach Mike Smeriglio We were in it right until the end, this was the best we’ve played.”
Senior guard Peyton Hackett and junior forward Audra Hansen each added eight points for the Vikings, who took an 11-2 lead into the second quarter on a Hackett layup. The Cards, who mostly played a man-to-man defense, slowly built momentum toward the end of the second quarter. After senior guard Bea Owens swished a 3-pointer from the right corner, cutting Westhill’s lead to 13-7, the visitors went on a 10-2 run to grab a 23-9 advantage. Bautista ignited the spurt with a pair of 3-pointers. Greenwich then capped the opening half with a 9-2 spurt, behind five points from Riggs.
“I think it’s a wake-up call, but we’ve had way too many of these situations, where we start off slow,” Riggs said. “Even at the beginning of the season, we had several games where we ended up losing by four or five points where we started off slow. So I think it’s putting it all together and realizing that team ball is the most important aspect each game.”
Consecutive 3-pointers by Riggs brought the Cardinals to within 27-24 at the 5:45 mark of the third quarter. Greenwich took its first lead of the game when Wilson made a short jump shot with 4:35 to go in the third quarter, making it 28-27. Senior Marielle Povinelli followed by burying a shot from beyond the arc from the left corner, putting the home team on top, 31-27. Following a Westhill basket from junior forward Olivia Conte, Wilson scored off a putback, giving Greenwich a 33-29 edge late in the third quarter. Wilson gave Greenwich a significant lift off the bench, pouring in a season high 13 points.
“We brought more energy in the second half and we just started hitting our shots and grabbing rebounds,” Wilson said. “Then things turned out for the better.”
Greenwich held a 38-35 lead going into the fourth quarter and Westhill kept it a three-point game until the final minute of play. Wilson made a pair of timely shots in the fourth quarter, while Riggs converted four foul shots and junior forward Kayla Anderson made two free throws.
“A few missed layups in the first half hurt us,” Smeriglio said. “But give Greenwich credit, they played their best at the right time.”
Added Hernandez: “We needed to work really hard to get this win. Westhill did a good job, they kept battling, but we are learning how to handle end-of-game situations. We did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
Anderson scored six points, pulled down nine rebounds and had four assists, Wilson had nine rebounds, sophomore guard Sophia Sergio totaled eight boards and Povinelli had seven rebounds for the victors. Gillian Frey and Lauren Smego added two points apiece, while Sarah Peng had two rebounds in the win. Olivia Conte contributed eight points for Westhill.
Greenwich hopes to bring the rhythm offensively it showed in the second half against Westhill into Friday’s road game vs. St. Joseph and into next week’s FCIAC Tournament.
“Us getting into the paint and passing it out to people – being able to draw two or three defenders and then getting it out to our shooters like Marielle, Bea and Hayley, makes our offense work better,” Riggs said. “Just making one more pass ultimately gives us the best ball movement.”
Added Wilson: “As long as we bring the energy we brought in the second half tonight into each game, we’ll be fine. Once we trust each other as a team and communicate, that’s when it all comes together.”