Greenwich High

Greenwich High girls basketball team eliminated by top-seeded, undefeated Fairfield Ludlowe in FCIAC quarterfinals

Photo courtesy of Dan Utzinger: Greenwich junior forward/tri-captain Julia Monteiro drives to the basket during the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals against Fairfield Ludlowe on Feb. 18, 2023, at Staples High School in Westport.

Following an undefeated regular season, Fairfield Ludlowe’s girls basketball team entered last night’s FCIAC Tournament quarterfinal-round game against Greenwich, eager to impose its will early and continue its quest toward winning its first conference tournament title.

Mission accomplished.

Using a halfcourt press and overall tenacious defensive effort, top-seeded Fairfield Ludlowe raced out to a 16-point lead the first five minutes of the matchup and never looked back.

Senior guard Rory Kudzy led a balanced scoring effort, totaling 14 points, to pace Ludlowe past eighth-seeded Greenwich, 62-36, in the FCIAC quarterfinals at Staples High School in Westport. Senior forward Kaleigh Sommers and senior power forward Madison Roman added 11 points apiece, while junior forward Phoebe Shostak added 12 points for the Falcons, who bolted to a 21-4 lead after the first quarter, before taking a 36-12 lead into halftime. Coached by Sara Kinsley, Ludlowe plays fifth-seeded Trumbull in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. FCIAC semifinals at Trumbull High School.

The Cardinals also lost to the Falcons in the 2022 FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals. Ludlowe, which starts three players 6-foot and over, improved its record to 21-0.

“Ludlowe is a great team, that’s why they have the record they have, they have a complete team,” Greenwich coach Megan Wax said. “The height aspect is something we knew going into the season that was going to be hard for us, especially when we play against height that is super athletic. They shot the ball unbelievably well. I thought we implemented our halfcourt defense well, but unfortunately, we were nervous going in and we gave them a lot of points.”

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Greenwich guard Madi Utzinger gets ready to take a layup against Fairfield Ludlowe.

The Cardinals played the Falcons well in the team’s regular season meeting, a 49-39, Ludlowe win. Yet Ludlowe took any drama out of this matchup early, by rolling to a quick double-digit lead. The Falcons forced turnovers with their halfcourt press, which led to fastbreak layups and scoring opportunities. When they were in their halfcourt offense, they also effectively shot the ball from the perimeter.

“Our defensive intensity contributes to our offensive flow,” Kinsley said. “Tonight, our ball movement was some of the best we’ve had all season our defensive intensity has allowed us to reverse the ball and get us open looks and fastbreaks and that’s what kept us up in the first half.”

Junior power forward/tri-captain Julia Monteiro scored 11 points, while freshman guard Madi Utzinger had 11 points for Greenwich (10-11).

“I think we had really high expectations going into the game,” said Greenwich senior guard Sophia Sergio, also a tri-captain. “Last game against them we lost by 10, but we weren’t hitting any of our shots tonight. The game wasn’t going how we thought it was going to go, but we fought to the end, so I guess that’s all you can do in that situation.”

Photo courtesy of Dan Utzinger: Greenwich senior guard/tri-captain Carolyn Frankle, right, dribbles the ball up the court, while being pursued by Rory Kudzy of Fairfield Ludlowe during FCIAC Tournament quarterfinal-round action.

Shostak got the Falcons rolling, converting a 3-pointer from the left side against Greenwich’s 2-3 zone on one of the game’s first possessions. Sommers grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, then Shostak converted a fastbreak layup off a steal, giving Ludlowe an 8-0 lead 1:03 into the first quarter.

Roman swished a short jumper from the right side, Sommers scored off another steal caused by the halfcourt trap, then added a basket on a putback, putting the Cards in a 16-0 hole less five minutes into the opening quarter.

“It’s something that we’ve worked on, especially this week at practice,” Sommers said of the team’s halfcourt press/trap. “We know teams are starting to adjust and we are constantly working on how to capitalize on off things. The trap led to opportunities for everyone else.”

A long two-pointer by junior guard Ayanna Davenport gave GHS its first basket of the game at the 2:57 mark of the first quarter. Baskets by Shostak and senior guard/captain Rory Kudzy put the Falcons on top by 17, 21-4, after the first quarter.

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Fairfield Ludlowe forward Kaleigh Sommers takes a jump shot against Greenwich.

The victors shot a high percentage from the floor, making six 3-pointers, a lot of mid-range jumpers and numerous layups.

“We’ve been talking all season, especially these past few days, take your opportunity,” Kinsley said. “If you are given an opportunity, take it. Everyone who got in kept the intensity high.”

A 3-pointer from the top of the key by Roman gave Ludlowe a 31-8 lead with 2:08 to go in the second quarter. Utzinger scored five points during the second quarter for the Cardinals, who settled down during the second half.

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Sophia Sergio of Greenwich takes the ball up the court during the FCIAC quarterfinals.

“We passed directly to them right away and we got a little frantic,” Wax said. “We couldn’t get into the things we knew we needed to implement until it was already a pretty big deficit.”

Said Greenwich senior guard/tri-captain Carolyn Frankle, who registered five points: “The beginning of the game was pretty much our downfall. We gave them the opportunity to get the shot they wanted. We finally got out of not being intimidated by them, once we started the second half and we started to make a little bit of a coming back. But we got ourselves in too much of a hole.”

Monteiro had five third-quarter points and junior forward Riana Xhekaj scored four points during the quarter, which saw the Falcons seize a 57-21 advantage. Sophomore guard Kate Cimador helped Fairfield Ludlowe impressively end the third quarter, scoring five straight points.

Photo courtesy of Dan Utzinger: Greenwich forward Lara Young takes the ball to the basket against undefeated Ludlowe.

“It was a great team win and I’m proud of everyone,” Sommers said. “Greenwich is a great team and we’ve been practicing for them. Everyone came ready to play and was enthusiastic.”

Cimador totaled seven points, senior guard Amelia Keresey had three points and senior center Caitlin Finnegan contributed two points apiece in the winning effort.

As the results have shown, the Falcons have handled the pressure attached to being undefeated quite well.

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Ludlowe forward Madison Roman drives to the basket while being defended by Greenwich’s Carolyn Frankle during FCIAC Tournament quarterfinal-round action at Staples High School. Ludlowe won, 62-36.

“Starting off with a perfect season, we want to change our mindset and make sure we’re all locked in,” Finnegan said. “We are staying unified and controlling the controllables. We are practicing really hard and we are trying to not make it a pressure situation. We are trying to make it a wonderful experience.”

The Falcons are seeking their first appearance in the FCIAC Tournament final.

“Everyone is hungry and we’re not going to stop that mentality until we’re done,” Sommers said. “To be playing in the semifinals is a feeling like no other.”

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Greenwich’s Riana Xhekaj scores on a runner from the baseline vs. Ludlowe, which won, 62-36.

Senior guard Laura Smego finished with three points on a 3-pointer, Davenport had two points and sophomore forward Lara Young added two points for GHS.

“It’s not what we wanted, but I’m proud of the girls for never giving up and they continue to hustle and give it their all in everything they do,” Wax noted.

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Fairfield Ludlowe guard Rory Kudzy takes a layup while being guarded by Greenwich’s Madi Utzinger during the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals, which the Falcons won, 62-36.

The loss didn’t end Greenwich’s season, however. The Cardinals qualified for the CIAC Class LL Tournament and will begin play in the tournament in a week-and-a-half. Greenwich is ranked 18th in Class LL and will have a road game in the first round of the Class LL tourney.

“We have about two weeks, so we have to get back into the gym and keep our mind in the game and hopefully, we can make it to the state championship,” Sergio said.

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Greenwich guard Ayanna Davenport looks for an opening against Ludlowe’s defense.

“We have a full week of practice of trying to get all the kinks out and hopefully, we can get a first round win,” Frankle added.

The Cardinals won in the opening round in the 2022 Class LL Tournament, before being eliminated Enfield in the second round.

Photo by Dan Utzinger: Sophia Sergio, of Greenwich, left, guards Ludlowe’s Kate Cimador.

“After the game, we talked about being intentional about these upcoming practices and not being complacent, ” Wax noted. “We want to get the most out of these practices.”

Kinsley has been delighted to see her team in action each game, as they’ve consistently executed their game plan throughout the season.

“We are definitely a very dynamic team,” she said. “We have posts, we have shooters, we have guards and we are playing as one unit, which is special to see. Now, we have to stay focused and keep working hard.”

Photo courtesy of Dan Utzinger: Ludlowe’s Kaleigh Sommers drives between several Greenwich defenders.
Photo by David Fierro: Greenwich huddles up prior to playing Ludlowe in the FCIAC quarterfinals.
Photo by David Fierro: From left to right: Greenwich’s Carolyn Frankle, Sophia Sergio, Laura Smego, Riana Xhekaj and Julia Monteiro during pregame introductions for the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals.
Photo by Dan Utzinger: Laura Smego of Greenwich takes a shot during a game against Fairfield Ludlowe.

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