St. Joseph possesses one of the FCIAC’s best frontcourts, as the Greenwich High School girls basketball team knows all to well.
The Cadets’ junior trio of Dennaye Hinds, Kirsten Rodriguez and Isabelle Casucci are difficult forwards to defend and their power inside propelled their team into the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals.
Hinds, Rodriguez and Casucci combined for 28 points, most of which came in the post, to help spark fifth-seeded host St. Joseph to a 53-31 victory over No. 12 Greenwich in the Round of 16 of the FCIAC Tournament. The Cadets moved on to the FCIAC quarterfinals, where they will visit Fairfield Ludlowe on Saturday,
Greenwich, which lost to St. Joseph during the regular season, finished its 2021 campaign at 4-9. The Cardinals faced only a 10-7 deficit after the first quarter, but the Cadets outscored them 16-6 during the second quarter to enter halftime with a 26-13 lead. The visitors trailed by 11 points late in the third quarter, before St. Joseph went on a 6-0 run to open a 17-point lead.
“For us, the two biggest things were not being able to match up with their size and we were not converting our shots,” Greenwich coach Chrys Hernandez said. “We did as good a job as we could defensively. Offensively, we needed a lot more to go our way, but it wasn’t happening. But I’m proud of how our team played. We are going to miss our seniors.”
Rodriguez led St. Joseph’s balanced scoring attack with 12 points. Senior guard Emily Haverl added nine points, while Casucci and Hinds totaled eight points apiece. Throughout the matchup, the Cadets excelled at getting the ball inside and getting second shots, thanks to their forwards.
“We came out with great energy, which led to us feeding it to us inside the post,” Hinds said. “We knew last game they had trouble guarding us in the post, so we kept pounding it inside.”
St. Joseph, which entered halftime with a 26-13 lead, kept Greenwich’s defense moving by moving the ball inside and around the perimeter.
“I feel like we stayed patient with the ball and got the defense moving, which made it easier to catch the ball in the paint,” the 5-foot-11 Hinds said. “Although we played them before, they were definitely tougher tonight. They came out with a different defense, which was tough to adjust to, but we came out with a positive mindset and we were ready to work.”
Pacing Greenwich was senior quad-captain Bea Owens, who scored 12 points, including two 3-pointers. The postseason matchup marked the final game for Owens, senior quad-captain Marielle Povinelli and senior Sarah Peng. They were members of the Cardinals team that advanced to the semifinal-round of the CIAC Class LL Tournament in 2020, before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over these four years the members of this team have become my family on and off the court, people I can depend on to be there for me,” said Owens, a guard. “I feel like I have grown up with them and the coaches.”
Sophomore guard Sophia Sergio scored six points off two 3-pointers, while junior forward Cami Jablonski and junior point guard Kristin Riggs had four points apiece for the Cardinals.
“They did a good job of making those drives and pinning us under the basket and getting those easy layups,” Riggs said.
Points were a bit difficult to come by in the first quarter for both squads. Rodriguez scored the Cadets’ first six points off strong low post moves, while Owens used baseline drives to score the Cards’ opening four points. Sergio’s 3-pointer from the right side gave Greenwich a 7-6 edge with 1:01 remaining in the first quarter, which was the last time it led. Casucci made a basket off an offensive rebound, then scored on a layup off a steal, making it 10-7.
The hosts started the second quarter with a 12-2 spurt to open a 22-9 advantage. A pair of foul shots by Riggs and freshman Julia Monteiro’s layup off a pass from Jablonski stopped the Cadets’ run, but consecutive baskets from Hinds in the paint gave St. Joseph a 26-13 halftime lead.
“I’m proud of our team today, they pulled it all together in the second quarter,” St. Joseph coach Chris Lindwall said. “We got a little shaky in the third quarter defensively, but the second quarter, really was the difference in the game.”
Riggs turned a steal into a layup and Owens swished a jumper from the elbow, bringing the Cards to within 36-25 at the 1:48 mark of the third quarter, but the Cadets’ effective man-to-man defense, mixed in with some traps, held Greenwich to just six points the rest of the game.
Junior guard Kate Rudini contributed six points, while Kayleigh Carson, also a junior guard, had five points for the victors.
“We came out very focused, we knew Greenwich was going to come at us after the other day,” Lindwall said. “Chrys is a very good coach and she had her kids prepared. The kids worked the high low very well. Our forwards did a really nice job of getting position. That’s what we need, we need for them to score inside.”
The Cadets lost to their next tournament opponent, Ludlowe, during the regular season.
“We are just going to go in with good energy and positive mindset,” Hinds said of Saturday’s quarterfinals against Ludlowe.
Povinelli reflected on her time on Greenwich’s basketball team.
“These past four years, we made great memories on this team,” Povinelli said. “To be honored on this team as a captain is truly an honor, especially this year having a young team and being able to be a mentor to them. I’m taking all these memories with me to college.”
Said Peng: “I am really glad we had a season this year, even though it was short season. I’m glad we were able to participate in FCIACs this year. I think we did well as a team, we really didn’t know going into the season what was going to happen.”
Riggs and junior forward Kayla Anderson, who was also one of the captains this season, will be among the Cardinals long list of returning players next season.
“It’s exciting, but it’s sad, I’ve been with the team three years with this team, so I’m going to miss our seniors,” Riggs said. “But I’m excited for the future.”
Added Owens: “We left everything out on the court, that’s all I can ask for. Our team played for the seniors.”