Greenwich High

Greenwich High girls basketball team posts key late-season with against Ridgefield; Madi Utzinger with 11 points

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Greenwich freshman guard Madi Utzinger, left, dribbles the ball down the court while being guarded by Ridgefield sophomore Emma Gythfeldt during a game held on Feb. 7, 2023, in Greenwich.

With the regular season concluding next week and the postseason looming, the time is now for the Greenwich High School girls basketball team to compete at its highest level.

The Cardinals, who have qualified for the CIAC Class LL Tournament and are in a position to earn a berth into the eight-team FCIAC Tournament, must finish their regular season strong in order to receive their best possible seed for the conference tourney.

Tuesday night, Greenwich showed that its peaking at exactly the right time, by earning one of its most significant victories of the season to date, against an opponent that’s had its number in the past.

A pivotal third quarter propelled Greenwich past visiting Ridgefield, 44-35, in an FCIAC matchup. The triumph marked just the third time the Cardinals topped the Tigers since the 2007 season. Ridgefield is 14-3 against Greenwich since 2007, making Tuesday night’s victory extra special for the Cardinals.

Photo courtesy of Dan Utzinger: Greenwich senior guard Carolyn Frankle, left, drives to the basket while being defended by Ridgefield junior forward Andrea Paz during a girls basketball game at Greenwich High School on Feb. 7, 2023.

“It was a good test,” Greenwich coach Megan Wax said. “We talked  about going into this that Ridgefield is hyper physical and aggressive and we needed to expect that and match that mindset. Today we did a really great job of that.”

Freshman guard Madi Utzinger scored a team-high 11 points off the bench to pace the Cardinals’ balanced scoring effort. Senior point guard Carolyn Frankle scored 10 points, while senior shooting guard Sophia Sergio added nine points for the Cardinals (9-8 overall, 7-5 FCIAC).

“This was one of our best wins,” said Frankle, a tri-captain. “This was a great team win. Today, in our third quarter, we outscored them 16-6 which was a big part of this win.”

Indeed, Greenwich turned a slim 18-16 halftime deficit into a 32-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter with an impressive third quarter.

Photo courtesy of Dan Utzinger: Greenwich’s Sophia Sergio, right, drives toward the basket against Ridgefield.

“It feels really good, because we’ve been working really hard on executing some things and it is definitely a proud win,” Sergio said. “We’ve been working really hard on our 2-3 zone and we did a good job of staying discliplined throughout the game. We did really well all around, getting the steals and communicating with each other.”

Senior power forward/tri-captain Julia Monteiro scored five points, while junior power forward Riana Xhekaj totaled six points for the Cards, who lost to Ridgefield the previous two seasons. Ridgefield (12-5 overall, 9-3 FCIAC play) was paced by eight points by junior forward Anna Gillian and seven points Anna Campo, also a junior.

Trailing 24-22, the Cardinals tied the score on a layup by Utzinger, then took the lead at 26-24 on a pair of foul shots by Sergio with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter. A steal by Frankle set Utzinger up for a fastbreak layup, giving GHS a 28-24 advantage late in the third quarter. In the final minute of the third period, Sergio drove the lane for a basket, making it 32-24 in favor of the home team.

“We’ve had some huge performances from Madi, she made some nice shots,” Wax said. “She keeps her composure really well and she can play different positions.”

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Greenwich junior forward Riana Xhekaj drives to the basket against Ridgefield.

Frankle’s basket off a pass from Sergio put GHS ahead, 34-26 at the 6:58 mark of the fourth quarter, then three free throws from Frankle extended the squad’s advantage to 37-28 with 4:28 to go in the final frame. Greenwich, which played effective zone defense throughout, maintained its nine-point edge thereafter.

“Our 2-3 zone, we know where each other is going to be,” Frankle noted. “Sophia could be at one end and I could be at the other and we have been playing really good zone defense.”

Sergio scored six of her nine points in the second half, while Frankle totaled eight of her 10 points in the second half to help lead Greenwich’s second-half surge. Utzinger had seven second-half points and Xhekaj scored five points after halftime for the victors.

Utzinger grabbed nine rebounds and Xhekaj pulled down six rebounds for the Cards, who received five steals from Frankle, four steals from Utzinger, three steals from Monteiro and three from Sergio.

Photo courtesy of Dan Utzinger: Lara Young shoots a jump shot during a matchup against Ridgefield.

“They were trying to get the ball to the middle a lot,” Monteiro said of Ridgefield. “So, pinching in the top of the 2-3 was really crucial to getting the win. That didn’t allow them to get the ball into the middle where they could dish out from. Madi was really good, she had a lot of good point and good looks too. She really carried us in the end too.”

In the first quarter, a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Emma Gythfeldt and a layup off a steal by freshman Sophia Desano gave Ridgefield a 12-8 lead and they went into halftime with a two-point edge. As the game progressed, GHS hit the backboards on both ends of the court hard, with Monteiro, Utzinger and Xhekaj leading the way.

“This was Julia’s first game back after being out from an injury,” Wax said. “The physicality and presence she had in the paint and ripping down the rebounds added an important element to our team.”

Photo by David Fierro: Greenwich senior forward Julia Monteiro, right, looks to pass form near the top of the key while being defended during an FCIAC matchup against visiting Ridgefield.

Frankle shot 6 for 7 from the foul line for Greenwich, which took advantage of its free throw opportunities.

“We’ve been finishing practice with foul shots every day and I feel like we’ve been improving a lot,” Sergio noted.

Greenwich has three games remaining in the regular season. Senior Day is tomorrow night for the Cardinals, as they will host FCIAC foe Danbury at 7 p.m. The Cards will then visit conference foe Darien on Tuesday and host Wilton on Feb. 15.

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Greenwich reacts after defeating Ridgefield.

Tuesday night’s matchup was Greenwich’s Coaches vs. Cancer game. Greenwich raised money at the game for the American Cancer Society. Currently, Greenwich is in a sixth-place tie with New Canaan in the FCIAC.

“I’m really hopeful for these next three games and hopefully we can win some more games for FCIACs,” Monteiro said.

Frankle reflected on Utzinger’s impressive game.

“Maddie, she is only a freshman, the FCIAC has another three years of her and she is only going to be better, as she knows the system more,” she said.

Sophia Sergio lines up a shot for Greenwich in its game vs. Ridgefield.
Photo by Dan Utzinger: Carolyn Frankle gets ready to take a jump shot against Ridgefield.

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