Converting the majority of its shots in the first quarter, Sacred Heart Greenwich’s basketball team set the tone of its game against FAA foe Masters School early, a scenario it hopes to continue with plenty of challenging matchups coming up on its schedule.
Points haven’t been that easy to come by for the Tigers, despite entering Monday’s matchup against Masters School with five victories in seven games, so a 33-point first-half en route to a 72-point performance was a welcome sight for Sacred Heart.
Junior guard/forward Payton Sfreddo led a balanced scoring effort with 14 points in Sacred Heart’s decisive 72-35 victory over visiting Masters School. The win raised the Tigers record to 6-2 overall and a perfect 4-0 in the FAA.
“I thought the girls played with a lot of intensity, which is huge,” Sacred Heart coach Ayo Hart said. “We’ve been winning games, but even struggling to score, so I was happy to see the ball through the net. We were making layups that we were missing early in the season and shots that we were missing early in the season, which is good to see. It was good to see everyone contributing.”
Sfreddo scored 10 of her points in the second half for SHG, which entered halftime with 33-18 lead. Guards Eva Wilkerson and Ava Curto poured in nine points apiece, while senior forward/center Olivia Caponiti totaled eight points, six of which came in the second half for the victors.
“I thought it was a good win, we scored a lot more than usual,” said Sfreddo, a junior co-captain. “We were faster and more athletic and that helped us in the long run. I think that worked for everyone. We got a ton of steals and were super intense and active on defense.”
In her third season on the varsity squad, Sfreddo opened the game’s scoring by banking in a shot from the low post. Caponiti grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback, Sfreddo made a layup off a steal and Wilkerson, a sophomore, swished a jump shot, putting Tigers on top, 8-0 three minutes into the first quarter.
Later in the opening quarter, junior forward/center Kaitlin Robinson scored on an offensive rebound and Curto, a freshman, made a 3-pointer from the left side, making it 13-2 with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter. Madison Hart, a junior point guard/captain, nailed a jump shot from just inside 3-point range and junior Maddie Hooper made a foul shot, concluding the Tigers’ stellar 16-point opening quarter. Guard Dakota Daniello scored all four of Masters’ first-quarter points. Daniello finished the game with a game-high 17 points.
The Tigers were effective defensively throughout this FAA contest. Their multiple zone defenses forced turnovers and succeeded in making Masters work hard for its shots.
“I thought our defense was really good and our defense led to our offense, which is why we scored so much,” Madison Hart noted. “We doubled their rebound count I think, so that was impressive.”
The host Tigers used a 2-3, 1-2-2 zone and halfcourt trap against Masters, which received eight points from Maddie Burns. Sacred Heart did an effective job of gathering rebounds on both ends of the court and excelled at closing out on Masters’ perimeter shooters.
“I was happy with our defensive intensity, we ran all but one of our defensive sets,” Ayo Hart said. “We had very balanced scoring. It was nice see it so balanced.”
Last month, Sacred Heart competing in a tournament in Orlando, Florida. The Tigers played three games in the tournament, going 2-1 and finishing third in their bracket. While not playing basketball, SHG had an opportunity to visit and have fun, at Disney World.
“It was a great bonding experience,” Sfreddo said of the team’s appearance in the tournament down in Orlando. “The tournament gave us exposure to tough competition and we had a great time.”
A putback by Caponiti upped the Tigers’ edge to 26-8 on Masters midway through the second quarter. After Masters closed to with 33-21, Sacred Heart went on a 9-0 run behind six points from Sfreddo to open a commanding 42-21 advantage at the 3:29 mark of the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Sacred Heart’s defensive performance was sound each quarter against the visitors.
“We had a lot of time off, so I was a little nervous about today,” Madison Hart said. “Our juniors were on a retreat recently, so we didn’t practice last week. So, that says a lot about our team coming off a long break, then playing so well.”
Robinson added five points, including a 3-pointer, junior guard Olivia Leahy had four points, junior guard Victoria Hart scored three points, forward Jada Marie Henry totaled eight points and Mackenzie Gillen contributed three in the winning effort. Curto made two shots from beyond the arc.
Up next for Sacred Heart is a game at Rye Country Day School tomorrow at 4:30 p.m., then a home matchup against Kent School Friday at 5:30 p.m. in a rematch of last season’s NEPSAC Class A Tournament semifinals.
“We’re entering our difficult stretch of the season and we’re all ready to face this difficult stretch and put final push into it,” Sfreddo said.