Sacred Heart basketball pulls away from Greenwich Academy
GREENWICH — Seeing a 16-point first-half lead disappear in the second half didn’t cause the Sacred Heart Greenwich basketball team’s confidence to waver. Instead, the Tigers knew it was time to go on another scoring surge.
And did they ever.
Scoring 27 of the game’s last 30 points over a 12-minute span, Sacred Heart registered a 55-31 win over FAA neighborhood rival Greenwich Academy on Wednesday.
The victory raised the host Tigers’ record to 2-1 heading into this weekend’s tournament at Kingswood-Oxford School. Sophomore point guard Leah Atkins scored 12 of her team-high 20 points in the second half to power Sacred Heart, which featured an effective, trapping matchup zone defense.
“We had great energy going into the game. We were so pumped and excited,” Atkins said. “Everyone was playing well and we got key rebounds and took good shots.”
Junior guard Ryan Smith scored eight points and ignited the Tigers’ defensive play with nine steals. Junior forward Claire Liddy scored nine points, while junior Sarah Eckerson contributed eight.
“Our strong point this year is our defense and that’s what really sparked us,” Smith said. “We are all athletic and we have quick kids, who can hustle and play defense. Our defense is built around traps and hustle.”
Greenwich Academy received a game-high 23 points from guard/forward Olivia Davis. The Gators trailed 20-4 with 9:25 remaining in the first half, but forged a 28-28 tie with 13:19 left in the second half. GA, which played without standout forward Kaitlyn Davis, who is recovering from a knee injury, dropped to 0-4 with the defeat.
“Olivia played well, but we all have to step up as a team,” GA coach Wes Matthews said. “We can’t just rely on Olivia and we can’t just wait for Kaitlyn to come back. This is a team sport, so we can’t rely on one person.”
Davis scored while being fouled, then made the ensuing foul shot, tying the score at 28. Then the Tigers’ huge run began. Eckerson’s basket gave Sacred Heart the lead for good at 30-28 with 12:05 left. Smith converted a layup off a steal and Atkins made three free throws over a two-minute span, making it 34-29 at the 9:48 mark.
After Davis made a free throw, Atkins scored six points during a two-minute stretch and Ryan banked in a perimeter shot, extended Sacred Heart’s advantage to 43-29. Trapping at halfcourt, the Tigers disrupted the Gators’ offense and forced a multitude of turnovers throughout the game. Smith and Atkins trapped GA’s backcourt at halfcourt.
“Our intensity on defense was good and our defensive play really helped seal the win for us,” Sacred Heart coach Ayo Hart said. “Ryan (Smith) was the ignition for us on defense with nine steals and Leah set the tempo down the stretch by making some good shots.”
The Gators, who trailed 28-22 at halftime, were limited to nine second-half points.
“For a time there, we were playing the best we had all year,” Matthews said. “At 28-28, it was a winnable game, then we began turning the ball over and turning it over. There’s no way you can get outscored 27-3 and expect to win a game.”
A layup from senior forward Laura Holland, a jump shot from senior forward Ciara Henry and Smith’s layup gave the home team a quick 6-0 lead. After GA senior forward Casey Gottlieb swished a short jumper, the Tigers went on a 14-2 run to take a 20-4 advantage.
But Greenwich Academy got back into the game, behind Davis’ 12 first-half points. Sophomore point guard Francesca Sileo’s two free throws cut the Tigers’ edge to 22-16 at the 4:37 mark of the opening half.
“We kept our hustle up and came out working really hard from the beginning,” Eckerson said. “Even when we had trouble scoring at the end of the first half we kept up our hustle. Beating GA is a huge step for us and we are really excited about what we can do this season.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Atkins made key baskets throughout the game and helped efficiently run the Tigers’ offense.
“I think we are progressing with each game, a lot better than we were last year,” Atkins said.
“Basketball is a crazy game, so much can happen in 30 seconds,” Smith said. “At 28-28 with 12 minutes to go, that’s an eternity, anything can happen.”
“The big difference in the second half was our shot selection, getting to the rim and our shot selection,” Hart said.
SACRED HEART 55, GREENWICH ACADEMY 31
GREENWICH ACADEMY 22 9 — 31
SACRED HEART 28 27 — 55
GREENWICH ACADEMY (31)
Ashley Telesca 0 1-2 1; Tyler Gray 0 2-2 2; Olivia Davis 7 7-13 22; Casey Gottlieb 2 0-0 4; Francesca Sileo 0 2-2 2; Marie Brewer 0 0-0 0; Clea Ramos 0 0-0 0; Grace Surgent 0 0-0 0; Tyler Gray 0 2-2 2; Totals: 9 12-19 31.
SACRED HEART (55)
Ryan Smith 4 0-2 8; Ciara Henry 1 0-0 2; Claire Liddy 4 0-0 9; Alana Frederick 2 0-0 4; Laura Holland 1 0-0 2; Stephanie Jordan 1 0-0 2; Leah Atkins 7 5-6 20; Morgan Smith 0 0-0 0; Sarah Eckerson 4 0-0 8. Totals: 24 5-8 55.
3-pointers: GA — Davis; SH — Atkins, Liddy.
Records: Sacred Heart 2-1; Greenwich Academy 0-4.