The Greenwich High School girls basketball team were in a tough spot earlier today at Norwalk High School.
After keeping the game close early on, the Bears exploded early in the second quarter, taking a 33-19 lead with 3:59 to play.
It would have been easy for the Cardinals to just to pack it up and focus on the next few games. However, Big Red’s worked way too hard this season to just give up.
Instead, Greenwich did the exact opposite. They outscored Norwalk 15-2 the remainder of the first half, cut the deficit to one and couldn’t miss to start the third quarter, scoring 10 points in the first 30 seconds of the half and cruised the rest of the way, winning 68-57.
“This game was very important for us and it was a step that we knew we had to take,” Greenwich High head coach Chrys Hernandez said. “We knew coming in what we had to do. We wanted to get their best player in foul trouble and stop her from getting the boards. I don’t think we did a good job keeping her off the boards, but we did get her out of the game.”
Greenwich was led by Caroline Barrett, who finished with a team-high 24 points.
“We came out very cold and flat in the first quarter, but then in the second half of the second quarter, our passing started to work and defense definitely sparked our offense,” Barrett said. “We’ve been having a lot of people step up and are getting the ball in the right place and pushing the tempo. Everything is starting to fall into place.”
Leigh Galletta also had a strong game, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds. Alexa Moses added six points and five rebounds, while Brittany Rodriguez finished with five points and five boards.
“Before the game, we were talking that although we have a few players out with injury, we need to refocus our goals and come together as a team to get the victory,” Galletta said. “Teamwork, passing and improving our press really keyed our victory. States is our big goal as a team and this was a huge step to get closer.”
Midway through the second, it seemed like the goal of a class LL playoff berth might be a faded memory, as Greenwich fell behind early and trailed 33-19 with 3:59 to play in the half. However, that’s when the Cardinals took control of the contest.
With 3:30 to play in the half, Galletta stopped Norwalk’s 15-1 run by draining two foul shots. After Moses grabbed the offensive rebound and netted the putback, she was fouled on Greenwich’s next possession and hit one of two shots and cut the deficit to 33-24.
From there, the duo of Barrett and Galletta took over. Barrett scored four points on two running layups to the net and Galletta drilled a foul shot and added a baseline floater. Her foul shot with 29.4 left cut the Norwalk lead to 33-31.
After Norwalk hit two foul shots to stop the bleeding with 21 seconds to play, Rebecca Kural grabbed the offense rebound and was fouled going up. A technical foul on the Norwalk head coach added two more foul shots. Kural made one of her two shots and Galletta took the technical foul shots and hit both.
At the half, what was a 14 point lead for Norwalk was down to one, 35-34.
“We want to be known as a defensive team and our press really caused problems tonight,” Hernandez said. “I told them that this was the best our press has looked all season. They are buying into what we want to do.”
Greenwich started the second half in grand fashion. Before the Bears could blink, the Cardinals were up 44-35. Big Red’s 10-0 run to start the second half was courtesy of its stellar defense, which forced 17 steals on the day.
After Barrett hit a floating hook shot to start the half, and gave Greenwich the lead, Moses stole the ball under the Norwalk basket and hit the easy layup. Barrett got into the act, as she stole the ball before Norwalk could get the ball past the mid-court line and drained the running layup. Galletta did the same thing on Norwalk’s next possession and Barrett added her second steal and layup.
Within 30 seconds, Big Red scored 10 points, deflated Norwalk and took the nine point lead with 6:31 to play in the third.
“Coach Hernandez has been stressing that we need to come out strong in the third quarter and that’s when it’s made a major difference in a lot of our games,” Barrett said. “At half, coach said that we keep to come out strong and not let up. That’s exactly what we did. On offense we were getting the picks and finding the open players again. This team plays their best when we are pushing the tempo.”
Greenwich showed their dominance to start the fourth quarter. After Jaime Kockenmeister hit both her foul shots to start the fourth, Barrett calmly drained the baseline three pointer, followed immediately by a baseline layup from Moses.
After a baseline jumper from Daniella Hernandez gave Greenwich the 59-44 lead, Rodriguez stole the ball on Norwalk’s next possession and was fouled going hard to the basket. After she hit one of her two foul shots, Maureen Tracey hit the 10-foot jumper and Hernandez connected on a long two, as her foot was on the three-point line.
With 4:10 to play, Greenwich built a 64-44 lead before Norwalk drained its first bucket of the quarter.
“I was very proud of this team,” Hernandez said. “We are injury prone right now and are down two key players. However we showed resiliency and that was what we wanted to do. Everybody stepped up and carried the load. We shared the load.”
With the victory, Greenwich is another step closer to reaching its goal of qualifying for the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL tournament.
“It’s another step closer, but we are not relaxing,” Hernandez said. “We don’t want to eek in there with eight wins. We want to go in there with a solid win-loss record. We are taking it one day, one possession at a time. We can’t look ahead to the future.”
Tuesday’s victory gave Big Red six on the season and are two wins shy of a postseason berth.
“It feels great,” Barrett said. “I’ve been on this team for four years now and we’ve never been this close. I’m hoping that we will get more than two wins to get in. I want to get six and I think that it is possible.”