Finishing the first half strong, the Greenwich High School girls basketball team entered halftime just two points behind Newtown and was in position earn a road win, while evening its early-season record to 1-1.
Yet points were tough to come by in the second half for the Cardinals, who saw the host Nighthawks methodically and effectively pull away.
When the fourth quarter commenced, the Cardinals faced a double-digit deficit they couldn’t come back from, as turnovers and too many empty possessions hurt them in this non-conference matchup.
Sophomore guard Isabelle Caron led all scorers with 13 points and junior guard Kristen Reisert added nine points for Newtown, which led most of the way in a 50-34 victory over visiting Greenwich.
Greenwich (0-2), which was edged by Kolbe Cathedral, 52-51, in its season-opener on Tuesday, hosts Glastonbury in another non-conference game on Monday at 6 p.m. The Cardinals trailed the Nighthawks, 21-19, at halftime, but were outscored 13-5 in the third quarter.
Senior guard Kristin Riggs scored nine points, while senior forward/center Kelly Martyanov and junior guard Sophia Sergio registered six points apiece for Greenwich.
“I think we still are a step slow,” Greenwich first-year coach Rashamel Jones said. “The first half we were right there, it was a two-point game. I give Newtown all the credit in the world, they didn’t panic and they were solid offensively and defensively. We committed 22 turnovers – no team can win a game when you have 22 turnovers. That’s a recipe for a loss.”
The Cards’ best moments came during the second quarter. Riggs swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key, giving GHS a 12-11 lead with 5:19 remaining in the second quarter. A two-season captain, Riggs then converted a layup off a steal made by senior two-year captain Kayla Anderson, extending Greenwich’s advantage to 14-11. A 7-0 run gave the Nighthawks the lead for good at 18-14.
Senior Chloe O’Connell (seven points) made a 3-pointer from the left side, Reisert scored off a steal and Caron converted a pair of foul shots, making it 18-14. Martyanov scored off a turnaround jumper in the low post and guard Carolyn Frankle made a free throw, cutting the home team’s advantage to 18-17.
With Greenwich behind by four points, senior forward Cami Jablonski grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, bringing the Cardinals to within 21-19 at the half. Once the second half began, GHS had trouble running its offense against Newtown’s 1-2-2 and 1-3-1 zone defenses.
“We’re still a new team and it’s a learning experience,” Riggs said. “We’ve had two tough losses, back-to-back. But I genuinely believe we could have had this game and we could have been up by a lot if we played our best basketball.”
Sergio connected on a 3-pointer and Martyanov made a basket in the paint for Greenwich’s five third-quarter points. Meanwhile, the Nighthawks put up 13 third-quarter points, with junior forward Alexandra Bradley, Caron and O’Connell pacing the way.
The Cards played both man-to-man defense and mixed in a zone, which was initiated by a full court press.
“Defensively, the first half we were right there,” Jones said. “We sped them up with our press, but the second half they started getting their shots. They started finding the middle and getting the ball down low.”
Anderson had four points, while Martyanov, Riggs and junior guard Laura Smego totaled two points apiece in the final quarter for the Cardinals, who couldn’t cut into Newtown’s lead.
“We improved on our post play from our first game, but I still think there was unnecessary turnovers that prevented that as well,” said Martyanov, one of the senior captains. “We have been working on communicating with the point guards to get the ball inside more, because I feel that’s one of our biggest strengths – our post game with all our posts.”
Newtown (2-1) kept its double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter, using effective ball movement against Greenwich’s press and trapping defense.
“We made a bunch of little mistakes with passing, not helping each other on defense and not crashing the boards and not making the one extra pass for the better shot,” said Anderson, who is in her second season as captain. “I think all these little things can be fixed once we all fix our attitude and energy. If we all want to play for each other and are all excited and hyped to play this game and win this game, I think things will fall into place.”
Following its game against Newtown, Greenwich boarded the bus and took a team trip to Mohegan Sun to watch the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team in action this weekend.
“We are going to watch UCOnn and some other college teams and hopefully their energy and intensity will inspire us,” Anderson said.
Indeed, the Cardinals have a competitive early-season schedule. They host Glastonbury on Monday, then St. Joseph pays a visit to GHS on Wednesday.
“We have to go back into the lab and get ready for Glastonbury,” Jones said. “Two games, it’s not going to make or break us. This makes us more aware of what we need to do.”
Said Riggs: “It’s all a learning experience and we have to look forward. It’s a tough week, but we have to take what we’ve learned and move on to the next game.”
“I think we have a good team, we just have to use all our strengths a little better,” said Martyanov. “We’re coming together and I think we just lacked a little intensity in the fourth quarter, which is when we should have been at our strongest.”