Coming off a pair of inspiring victories against Choate Rosemary Hall and Millbrook School last weekend, the Sacred Heart Greenwich basketball team was in prime position to extend its winning streak with another home triumph on Monday against Hamden Hall Country Day School.
Yet the visitors from Hamden had other plans.
A strong fourth quarter, sparked by a sensational performance by senior power forward Rayne Durant sparked Hamden Hall to a 56-46 win over host Sacred Heart in an FAA game.
Durant scored a game-high 27 points, 17 of which came during the second half for the Hornets ().
“No. 14 (Durant) hurt us,” Sacred Heart coach Ayo Hart said. “We have to go back to work on our post defense. She also moves really well without the ball in the post, which makes it tough to guard her, so we just have to work on staying in position. I thought our defensive intensity was great, we just need to finish with that rebound and not foul so much.”
Junior guard Payton Sfreddo scored a team-high 17 points for the Tigers, who kept it close throughout. SHG trailed just 18-14 following the first quarter and 27-26 at halftime.
“It was a tough game against a super strong team and I think we just weren’t able to close it out defensively and offensively,” Sfreddo said. “We just have to work on playing a full game together and leaving everything on the court.”
The third quarter concluded with the Hornets holding a slim 37-36 edge on the Tigers. Sophomore guard Eva Wilkerson scored 11 points, including a 3-pointer, while senior power forward/center Olivia Caponiti contributed nine points for Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart did a good job of drawing fouls, taking 32 free throws for the game. The Tigers shot 21 of 32 from the foul line with Sfreddo leading the way, swishing all eight of her free throw attempts.
Hamden Hall was 12 of 15 from the foul line.
“I thought we played really well,” Sacred Heart junior guard/captain Madison Hart said. “We struggled a little bit to convert on the free throw line and they didn’t. We also got outrebounded, so in those two cases, that’s where we lost the game.”
Junior power forward/center Kaitlin Robinson added four points, while Madison Hart had three points and her twin sister had one point, along with Ava Curto for the hosts.
Forward Eveami Okwuosa totaled 13 points, while guard Payton Collins chipped in eight points for the victors, who played mostly a 1-2-2 trapping zone defense.
A foul shot by Caponiti gave the Tigers a 34-29 lead with 4:23 remaining in the third quarter. Later in the quarter, a pair of free throws by Wilkerson extended Sacred Heart’s lead to 36-36.
Hamden Hall, however, ended the third quarter with five straight points to take a 37-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Collins converted a 3-pointer from the left corner at the buzzer concluding the third quarter, putting the Hornets ahead by a point.
“Points were hard to come by for sure in the second half,” Ayo Hart said. “They outrebounded us and we didn’t capitalize on some of our free throws, that changes the momentum. Our team played great to the last second though, we just came out on the wrong side.”
A basket in the low post by Durante opened Hamden Hall’s lead to 42-36 at the 6:40 mark of the fourth quarter. The Tigers closed to within 42-41 on a basket off on offensive rebound by Caponiti, a pair of foul shots by Sfreddo and a free throw by Curto. Consecutive baskets from the post by Durante and a jumper by Collins put Hamden back ahead by six points at 48-42, prompting a SHG timeout with 2:40 to play.
“The past few games, our defense has definitely improved,” Sfreddo said. “It was a huge factor for us our last two wins this weekend. We have to put in that final push to get the win. I feel the better defensive team is always going to come out with the win.”
Sacred Heart (5-5) visits FAA rival Greens Farms Academy today.
“We still have a bunch of season left, so we’re looking to making it far in FAAs and NEPSACs and closing out our season by fulfilling our goals.”
Said Madison Hart: “I think we’re in a great position. We beat the No. 2 team in the NEPSAC, Choate and I think we’re in a great position at this point of the season. We’re looking good in NEPSACs and FAAs.”