Sacred Heart Greenwich’s basketball team went three weeks without playing a game due to the Holiday break and the fact that the school shifted to remote learning last week due to COVID-19 protocols, but it certainly hasn’t looked rusty now that it is back in action.
In fact, the Tigers look better than ever, as Hopkins School would most likely attest to.
After cruising past Rye Country Day School on Wednesday in their first game of the new year, Sacred Heart excelled on both ends of the court against visiting FAA foe Hopkins School on Saturday.
Making a wealth of baskets in transition, aggressively crashing the backboards and playing tenacious defense, Sacred Heart remained undefeated in FAA play, scoring an impressive 75-26 home win.
Senior center Sarah Augustine scored 23 points, with most of her baskets coming from in the paint, sophomore guard/forward Payton Sfreddo registered 18 points, 12 of which came during the first half and eighth-grader Ava Curto had nine points for the Tigers (9-2 overall, 5-0 FAA).
Senior forward Franny O’Brien and sophomore guard Victoria Hart contributed eight points apiece, while sophomore guard Olivia Leahy had six points for the Tigers, who led 17-6 after the first quarter, then entered halftime with a commanding 40-11 advantage.
“We definitely hustled non-stop, we like to push ourselves when we are on the court,” said O’Brien, a co-captain, who will play lacrosse at Notre Dame. “As long as we are on the court we’re going to be competing at our best level and just basically practicing for our next game.”
Possessing plenty of speed, the Tigers made it a point to quickly push the ball up the court on both turnovers and made baskets. When they were in their halfcourt offense, they also efficiently ran their sets, resulting in points.
“We were able to use our speed and conditioning to get the ball up the court really quickly and our offense really thrived from that,” said Sfreddo, who swished three 3-pointers. “Using our speed and athleticism is a key component our game and our strategy.”
Ahead 17-6 following the first quarter, Sacred Heart embarked on a 21-0 run to seize a 38-6 advantage late in the second quarter. Sfreddo began the long spurt, scoring on a layup off a pass from sophomore forward Kaitlin Robinson. Victoria Hart scored on a fastbreak layup and O’Brien drove hard for a layup, making it 23-6.
A 3-pointer by Sfreddo, a basket in the post from Curto and a layup by Sfreddo put the Tigers up, 34-6 with 3:40 to go in the second quarter.
“It was definitely a good transition game for us, we got a lot of our points from transition,” SHG coach Ayo Hart said. “What is really fun now is we are starting to get those transition baskets off made baskets as well. Now when a team scores, we are looking to run, which is great to see.”
With the score 40-11 to start the third quarter, Augustine (6-foot-3) started off the second half scoring with a strong move in the low post. Sfreddo converted another 3-pointer and Augustine scored off an offensive rebound, making it 49-13.
“That’s what we’re best at, pushing the ball up the court, making sure our passes get there and we have rebounders trailing,” said Augustine, a co-captain.
Defensively, the Tigers played a tight man-to-man and mixed in a 2-3 zone. Their hands were active throughout, causing deflections, making steals and forcing turnovers – which resulted in points.
“We had a ton of steals,” said sophomore guard Madison Hart, who scored three points and efficiently helped run the offense. “Our goal is to be very intense throughout the game, no matter what the score is. We always want to make our time on the court counts.”
Said Sfreddo: “One of the things that we’re really known for is our defense and athleticism on defense and being able to stay in front and being able to stop anyone.”
The Tigers once again, showed their depth, as they received contributions from their whole roster.
“We did really well pressuring on defense and pushing the ball at a fast pace,” O’Brien said. “It was converting those fastbreak layups and causing those turnovers that led to our success today. We have a blast every time we’re on the court.”
“Our record is good, we started off the season great and there hasn’t been a fall in our play throughout the season and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season,” Madison Hart said.
“Because we’re so athletic we play a lot of people and everyone knows where they are supposed to be on the court,” Ayo Hart said.
In Wednesday’s 74-32 win against visiting Rye Country Day School, Madison Hart paced the Tigers with 20 points and Augustine tallied 16 points. Leahy and Robinson scored 10 points apiece, Sfreddo scored eight and O’Brien had six points in the winning effort.
Up next for the Tigers is a road game against Choate Rosemary Hall on Jan. 22. Sacred Heart’s much-anticipated matchup with FAA rival St. Luke’s School is scheduled to take place on Feb. 3 at St. Luke’s in New Canaan.
“I’m really excited about our game against St. Luke’s,” Augustine said. “That’s definitely going to be one of our hardest games, it’s going to be a really good game.”
“It’s something we’re always working for,” O’Brien said of the St. Luke’s game. “It’s in the back of our mind.”