They made nine 3-pointers, created turnovers, which they turned into points and flourished on the fastbreak – indeed, Sacred Heart Greenwich’s basketball team began the FAA Tournament in top form on Tuesday.
After struggling a bit over its final few regular season games, Sacred Heart knew it had to be on point in its postseason matchup against visiting, upset-minded Greenwich Country Day School in order to keep its season going and following four strong quarters, the home team advanced to play another game.
Receiving points from 10 different players, fourth-seeded Sacred Heart Greenwich used a fast start to build a double-digit first-half lead and proceeded to post a 74-46 victory over fifth-seeded Greenwich Country Day School in the FAA Tournament quarterfinals
The Sacred Heart Tigers moved on to Thursday’s FAA Tournament semifinals, where they will visit top-seeded St. Luke’s School for the right to play in the championship game.
Senior forward Franny O’Brien led a balanced scoring effort for SHG, scoring a team-best 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Sophomore guard, Victoria Hart, who usually comes off the bench, started Tuesday and scored 11 points, while senior center Sarah Augustine posted 12 points to ignite the winning effort.
“I thought we came out with a lot of intensity,” Sacred Heart Greenwich coach Ayo Hart said. “We know Greenwich Country Day School got a lot better from the first time we played them. We had to come out ready to play. The past couple of weeks we’ve struggled with one bad quarter, so today we had to have four good quarters and I think we did that on both ends of the floor.”
Freshman guard Eva Wilkerson added 10 points with two 3-pointers and helped Sacred Heart maintain its fast tempo offensively. The Sacred Heart Tigers led the Greenwich Country Day Tigers, 20-8 after the first quarter and 36-19 at halftime.
The 3-point shot bolstered Sacred Heart’s offense. Each time Greenwich Country Day tried to cut into Sacred Heart’s lead, the hosts converted a shot from beyond the arc.
“They know what’s at stake and they brought that and showed it – another level of focus, another level of intensity,” Ayo Hart said. “I was super pleased, we have been doing a lot of shooting. We moved the ball a little bit better today and we were getting open looks.”
The victors improved their record to 11-9 overall and 7-3 in FAA action. Meanwhile, the defeat marked the end of the season for the Greenwich Country Day Tigers, who showed significant improvement as the season progressed in their first full varsity season. Coached by Elisa Brown, GCDS finished with a 5-5 record in the FAA. Greenwich Country Day, which lost to Sacred Heart 67-46 during the regular season, received 12 points apiece from guards Brianna McDermott and Kylie Frank.
“This was a year of improvement,” Brown said. “We really focused on culture this year and buying in. These girls bought in. We’re a very young group. To come in as a first year varsity team and get fifth and play against a really talented Sacred Heart team, what more can you ask for?”
Wilkerson buried a 3-pointer, Augustine made two foul shots, Victoria Hart scored off a steal and O’Brien swished a short jump shot, giving the home team a quick 8-0 advantage. Scoring off a stellar move in low post, then off a putback, Augustine extended Sacred Heart’s advantage to 18-6 late in the opening quarter.
Victoria Hart’s runner in the lane, made it 20-8, heading into the second quarter. A 3-pointer by McDermott brought Greenwich Country Day to within 27-17 midway through the second quarter, but Sacred Heart ended the second quarter with a 9-2 run, behind five points from O’Brien. A co-captain, O’Brien had her shooting touch from the perimeter throughout.
“It was definitely an advantage we had,” O’Brien said of her squad’s outside shooting. “They started to match it in the second half, which gave us a little scare, but I think that we moved the ball really well and we meshed together and were really able to get those shots.”
Augustine scored off an offensive rebound, then guard Ava Curto nailed a 3-pointer, giving Sacred Heart a 20-point lead at 41-21 early on in the third quarter. Forward Kelly Holmgren (6 points) drove the lane and scored, while being fouled, then made the ensuing free throw for GCDS, making it 41-24, but the hosts went on a 10-0 spurt, with O’Brien scoring four points, to open a commanding 51-24 advantage.
Sacred Heart played an effective man-to-man defense and mixed in an efficient zone.
“We knew we had to have a lot of energy and get those steals to have the momentum and raise our offense,” said the 6-foot-4 Augustine, a co-captain, who also registered double figures in rebounds. “Those steals on defense we had helped our offense get ahead.”
SHG clicked offensively throughout, behind stellar movement of the ball. They also succeeded in getting second shots.
“Our offensive rebounding really helped that and we were able to get some easy putbacks and our shooting was on,” Augustine noted.
Said Victoria Hart, who had nine steals. “I think we were definitely moving the ball more than usual and it opened up some space for Sarah to get points inside and then kicking it out to get those 3s in the beginning. We were definitely anticipating the passes to get those steals.”
O’Brien totaled 10 of her 15 points in the second half, sophomore guard/forward Payton Sfreddo scored all nine of her points during the second half and Curto finished with five points in the triumph. Sacred Heart also received scoring from guard Olivia Leahy (two points), starting guard Madison Hart (3 points), forward Jada Henry (4 points) and forward/center Kaitlin Robinson (1 point).
Forward Rory Ashmeade added six points, while guards Caroline Hart and Nina Ferry had two points apiece for GCDS.
“They play a fast-paced game so you have to be able to keep up and slow down,” Brown said of Sacred Heart. “We had some really big shots, we hit some great shots. We’ve been working on our skill work and that transferred into our game today. This year was about culture for our team. I think we made our mark in the league.”
Sacred Heart gets another chance against St. Luke’s, which is undefeated, with one of their many victories coming against the Tigers.
“Round two, we have been practicing for it and looking forward to it,” O’Brien said of the FAA semifinals. “We can’t wait.”
“We’re ready, we knew St. Luke’s is the one team that stood between us and the FAA title and this is a good energy to have going into that game,” Ayo Hart said. “We played a great second half at their gym. If we can play four good quarters, I think we can play right with St. Luke’s.”
Categories: Greenwich Country Day School, Sacred Heart Greenwich, Winter sports
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