Greenwich Academy

Sacred Heart Greenwich defeats Greenwich Academy for third straight win in FAA basketball action; Tigers hope to contend for the league title; Young Gators team aiming for improvement

Photo by David Fierro: Sacred Heart Greenwich and Greenwich Academy get ready to play each other in an FAA basketball game held at Greenwich Academy on Dec. 14, 2022, in Greenwich. Sacred Heart was victorious.

Following a season in which it advanced to the FAA Tournament semifinals, then advanced to the semifinal-round of the NEPSAC Class A Tournament for the first time in program history, Sacred Heart Greenwich’s basketball team is again, on a winning pace.

The Tigers have started their 2022-2023 season by winning three of their first four games – their latest victory coming Wednesday against crosstown FAA basketball rival Greenwich Academy.

Excelling on both ends of the court throughout, while carrying the momentum, Sacred Heart improved its early-season record to 3-1 with a 59-16 win over host Greenwich Academy. After experiencing a highly successful season last winter, the Tigers are determined to contend for the FAA Tournament championship and qualify for and make a strong run in the NEPSAC Class A Tournament.

Greenwich Academy, a young team that’s finding its way against its FAA and NEPSAC opponents, is seeking to continue to display improvement, as it hopes to climb the ladder of success this winter.

“We’ve been really strong both offensively and defensively,” Sacred Heart junior point guard/co-captain Madison Hart said. “Our team’s focus every year is defense and I think we have a lot of athleticism and height this year, so I think that will definitely play to our advantage. We have been shooting really well and the intensity has been there in all of our games, so I’m really excited for the season.”

The Tigers began their season with a tough 44-43 loss to Hotchkiss School. Since then, they have defeated Rye Country Day School, 59-41, School of the Holy Child, 56-33 and GA on Wednesday.

Photo by David Fierro: From left to right: Payton Sfreddo and Madison Hart are junior captains of the Sacred Heart Greenwich basketball team, which is riding a three-game winning streak.

“Our expectations are really high, considering we have a ton of returners and a lot of talent on the team,” Madison Hart said. “We’re looking forward to doing well in the FAA. We’ve done pretty well in the past, but I think getting to the finals is one of our goals. In the NEPSAC, we made it to the semifinals for the first time in a while and that was really great, so we’re looking to get past where we were.”

SHG was defeated by champion St. Luke’s School in the FAA semifinals a season ago, then advanced to the NEPSAC Class A semifinals by downing Kent School, 52-49. The Tigers lost to Thayer Academy in their first appearance in the NEPSAC semifinals, 67-56. Center Sarah Augustine and forward Franny O’Brien, both of whom contributed greatly to the team’s success during Sacred Heart’s 2021-2022 campaign, were among the graduates from last year’s squad.

Sacred Heart returns a talented, experienced nucleus from last season’s playoff team, including co-captains Madison Hart and Payton Sfreddo.

Here’s a look at the Sacred Heart Greenwich and Greenwich Academy basketball teams. Sacred Heart: The Tigers possess depth at each position and are a team capable of pushing the ball up the court and getting the ball inside to its low post players.

“I’m feeling really good, I think we have a very strong team with a lot of potential,” Sacred Heart coach Ayo Hart said. “We’re still figuring some things out and they’re figuring each other out in terms of what they’re capable of. They’re still trying to figure out their groove. I’m really happy with the defense and I’m really happy with how they’re sharing the ball more than anything.”

Photo by David Fierro: Sacred Heart Greenwich coach Ayo Hart talks to her team during a timeout vs. Greenwich Academy.

In the triumph against Greenwich Academy at GA, Sfreddo, a guard, scoring a game-high 14 points, nine of which came in the second half. She swished three 3-pointers in the winning effort. Freshman guard Ava Curto scored 12 points with two 3-pointers, while Madison Hart and junior center Kaitlin Robinson added seven points apiece for the Tigers.

Sacred Heart brought an 11-4 lead into the second quarter, then extended its advantage to 30-8 at halftime against the Gators (0-4).

“I think it was a solid win and we really finished the little things and did everything we could to come out with a comfortable win against a rival team,” Sfreddo said.

A versatile player, Sfreddo likes the team’s dynamic.

“Our team is very deep and everyone that comes in is ready to play and ready to put their best effort on the court in practice,” Sfreddo said. “It’s going to do our team a lot of good. Everyone adds something new to the team, so it’s really exciting to see how our deep bench will come into play this year.”

Madison Hart, Sfreddo, Curto, sophomore Eva Wilkerson, junior Victoria Hart, junior Olivia Leahy and Mackenzie Dillen give SHG a deep backcourt with shooting touch. Robinson, senior Olivia Caponiti and junior Maddie Hooper should power the Tigers’ inside/low post game.

“We have a lot of depth a good amount of perimeter shooters,” Ayo Hart said. “They can hit shots beyond the arc and take it off the dribble. So that’s really nice. We’ve also been doing a good job of getting the ball inside and Kaitlin has been doing a phenomenal job on the boards. She’s athletic, has a nose for the ball and She is doing a good job of getting around the box outs. She runs the court beautifully, which is nice.”

Greenwich Academy’s Ellie Burdick dribbles around a pick set by Maddie Azrak, while Sacred Heart’s Madison Hart plays defense during a basketball game held on December 14, 2022, at Greenwich Academy.

Said Sfreddo: “To have a winning season, we have to come to practice every day with honor, heart and hustle and energy and bringing hard work. Putting in 100 percent into everything we do and have a good mindset into all the games and practices are going to be the keys to our success.”

Greenwich Academy: Ellie Burdick, Ellie Johnson and Maddie Azrak are Greenwich Academy’s senior captains. GA had a one-win season last winter, but its victory came against Canterbury School in one of its final games of the season – bright spot for the team. Through it all, the GA team kept a positive mindset and continued to show improvement against its more experienced opponents.

They are eager to play more competitive games this season, as coach Jordan Griffith continues to help the athletes hone their skills and learn plays in preparation for upcoming games.

“We have some young girls, so we have to manage our rotations,” Griffith said. “We also play in one of the toughest leagues in the Northeast, so we are managing our expectations. Our team has games this year where we’re going to be competitive and we want to continue to grow and develop as a group.”

Kaitlin Robinson of Sacred Heart lines up a foul shot during the Tigers game vs. host Greenwich Academy.

“All the pieces are there, we can win games and be successful,” Griffith continued. “Our captains are three incredible women that I have been fortunate to be around with and learn from myself.”

Azrak plays guard/forward and has been on the GA team for several seasons.

“It’s so exciting to be a leader of the team,” Azrak said. “I’ve been here since freshman year and it’s great to be able to be a leader of the team. We’re working a lot on our communication and our aggression is a big thing that we can definitely improve on.”

Indeed, GA keeps putting in the work, which it hopes will pay dividends.

“We’ve been working really hard in practice and we’ve had really great practices,” Azrak said. “Now we hope to translate that into games, which is something that we’re really working on. One thing about our team is we never let down. We stay positive because we know we are doing the best that we can.”

Photo by David Fierro: From left to right: Maddie Azrak, Ellie Burdick and Ellie Johnson are senior captains of the Greenwich Academy basketball team, which played Sacred Heart Greenwich on December 14, 2022.

Johnson, a forward, also served as a captain last season. She stars Greenwich Academy’s field hockey and lacrosse teams.

“We’re so blessed to have a bunch of new players in the program,” Johnson noted. “We have one eighth grader and a bunch of freshmen, so that’s a great addition to our varsity program and JV program.”

“Having all these fresh, new players here has been a driving factor to us,” Johnson continued. “Our goals are to be confident and aggressive on the court.”

GA plays in the St. George’s School Tournament this weekend. They play two games on Friday and one game on Saturday up in Rhode Island.

“It will be a great bonding experience for the team,” Johnson said. “But it’s also great exposure for the team. We are playing teams from other areas, so we get to see how they play and we get to learn from their offensive strategies.”

Greenwich Academy coach Jordan Griffith addresses his team during a timeout against Sacred Heart.

Burdick, a standout player on GA’s lacrosse and soccer teams, should spark the team at the guard position. She had five points against Sacred Heart.

“We have a lot of new girls a lot of young kids,” Burdick said. “We are excited to welcome them to the varsity team and varsity sports on the whole. We have been encouraging the girls and we are super positive no matter what the score is, as we are always cheering for each other and motivating each other.”

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