Holding a seemingly comfortable 14-point lead on New Canaan early in the third quarter, Greenwich High School’s girls basketball team found itself trailing by a point by the quarter’s conclusion – yet that didn’t cause the host Cardinals to panic.
Instead, the Cardinals kept their composure in the fourth quarter and they did so by following point guard Kristin Riggs’ lead, who indeed, created plenty of points at her position.
Riggs’ game-high 19 points powered Greenwich to its first win of the season, a 40-34 triumph over visiting New Canaan on Tuesday night. Greenwich, which began its 2020-2021 season with non-conference losses to Kolbe Cathedral and Newtown, received scoring from eight players in its FCIAC opener before its home crowd.
The Cardinals (1-2, 1-0 FCIAC) entered halftime with a 24-12 halftime lead and increased it to 26-12 when Riggs swished a jump shot from the left corner in the first minute of the third quarter. New Canaan stormed back though, eventually taking a 30-28 edge heading into the fourth quarter. Yet the Cardinals, who saw the Rams outscore them, 18-4 during the third quarter, held the visitors to just four points in the final quarter, while scoring 12 to secure the early-season win.
“It’s all about the small things,” said Greenwich coach Rashamel Jones, who earned his first career win with the Cardinals. “If we can take care of the basketball, compete on the backboards, defensively and offensively and talk on defense – if we take care of the small things, we’ll put ourselves in a position to win. And that’s what we did in the first half. The second half, we came out and we had 11 turnovers and that’s how they got the lead, eventually going up by one. So, once we started taking care of the ball once again, we took that lead back over and cemented that win.”
Scoring 10 points in the opening half, then adding nine more in the second half, Riggs helped the Cards’ seal their first win of the season.
“She’s been big for us all year,” Jones said of Riggs. “She’s one of our captains and she wants that big shot. She doesn’t shy away from having the ball in her hands in key situations, whether it’s taking that big 3 or whatever it is.”
Junior guard Sophia Sergio had five points, including a clutch fourth-quarter basket, senior center/forward Kelly Martyanov and senior forward Kayla Anderson added three points apiece, while junior guard Carolyn Frankel scored four points in the winning effort. Gillian Frey, a junior guard, sophomore guard Ayanna Davenport and junior forward Zaniya Huggins each added two points apiece for the Cardinals in a defensive-minded game in which every point was valuable.
“We did really well in the first half, because we kept our turnovers down and I was really proud of us, we were playing as a team and passing the ball around a lot, which was awesome,” Riggs said. “New Canaan is a well-structured team and a good team and I’m glad that we played them. Either one of us could have taken that win. I’m glad that we came back and I’m proud we were able come out with the win.”
Maddie Donaldson, a junior guard, sparked the Rams’ second-half comeback, scoring 11 of her 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Junior Natalie Plosker contributed eight points for New Canaan (3-2), six of which came during the second half.
“Before we were struggling with turnovers, but today we were moving the ball and looking to get it inside to the post,” said Martyanov, who pulled down seven rebounds. “Everybody did their part on defense, which was good. That’s something we’ve been working on.”
Frey made a jumper from the right side, giving Greenwich a 13-5 lead going into the second quarter. Early in the second quarter, Riggs converted a layup, then scored off a steal, making it 17-6. A putback by Huggins and a jumper by Riggs gave the home team a 21-12 advantage with 1:00 to go in the second quarter. Davenport’s fastbreak layup just before the buzzer sounded to end the half, put the Cards on top, 24-12.
“It was a very good game and I’m very proud of our team,” Anderson said. “What we lacked the last game, we brought it this game. We hustled, we worked hard and we played for each other, which I think, is the most important thing.”
Trailing 26-12, the Rams went on a 14-0 third-quarter run to tie the score at 26-26. Donaldson made a pair of 3-pointers during the spurt. Her third shot from beyond the arc of the quarter, gave New Canaan a 30-28 edge with 50 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Riggs’ 3-pointer from the right corner put the Cards on top for good at 31-30 early in the final quarter. Martyanov hit a jump shot from the foul line and Riggs made a mid-range shot from the left side, extending Greenwich’s lead to 35-30. Frankel and Sergio added layups late in the quarter.
“It feels relieving to get that first win and it feels like all the hard work that we’ve been doing is finally paying off,” Sergio said. “When they got the lead, we knew we just had to keep pushing – don’t give up. We had to keep the fire and keep it going. I think it’s a start to a streak of wins for us, hopefully.”
The Cardinals and Rams both played solid defense, as each squad had to worked hard to get open looks at the basket.
“I think defense makes offense,” Sergio said. “We definitely emphasize our defense in practice and that’s what’s going to get us all our wins this season.”
Anderson and Huggins each grabbed five rebounds, while Martyanov and senior forward Cami Jablonski gathered seven rebounds for the victors.
“Coming off the bench, we all try our best to get the rebounds,” Jablonski said. “Our other posts are doing really well now and we are now connected and getting the rebounds.”
“We had a really good game, except for a little slip,” Jablonski continued. “But we came back as a team.”
The game was Greenwich’s first since it lost at Newtown on Dec. 18. Since then, Greenwich’s scheduled games against Glastonbury, St. Joseph and Capital Prep were postponed. So, indeed, the team was looking forward to getting back into action Tuesday night.
“I’m excited to just be playing and that we’re able to have our games, because we missed a couple,” Riggs said. “I think we’re going to try to reschedule some of them.”
“Not even playing or seeing each other during that time was tough, so it felt good to get on the court and practice yesterday and get on the court and get the win tonight,” Anderson said.