GREENWICH — The Sacred Heart Greenwich basketball team pulled out a two-point road win against Hamden Hall Country Day School Friday in a game that was decided in the final seconds.
Saturday, the Tigers found themselves in another down-to-the wire thriller against Hopkins School.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the final seconds of action Saturday didn’t result in a victory.
Sophomore Casey Dies made two foul shots with 21.4 seconds remaining for Hopkins, which prevented host Sacred Heart from scoring on its last possession and held on to register a 33-32 FAA triumph.
The Hilltoppers, who lost to Choate Rosemary Hall on Friday, improved to 4-5 overall with the win and 2-0 in FAA play.
“We needed this game,” Hopkins coach Casey Blake said. “We have been in games, but we haven’t been able to get over the hump. The fact that we were able to pull out this game on the road means a lot to us.”
Senior forward Galen Smith scored a team-high 11 points, while senior guard Samantha Phelan added seven points for the Hilltoppers, who held a 20-9 halftime lead.
Sacred Heart (4-4, 2-1 FAA) received 10 points apiece from junior center Sarah Eckerson and sophomore guard Leah Atkins.
“Give Hopkins credit, but I think we did more damage to ourselves in the first half with unforced turnovers and missed opportunities on offense,” Tigers coach Ayo Hart said. “The second half we talked about getting the ball inside to (Eckerson) and she was huge for us in the second half.”
Senior forward/co-captain Claire Liddy converted a right-handed layup with 50 seconds remaining in the second half, giving Sacred Heart a 32-31 edge. After gaining possession on a Hopkins missed shot, Sacred Heart had a turnover and Dies was fouled. Dies swished her two free throw attempts, putting the Hilltoppers in front, 33-32 with 21.4 seconds to play.
Following a timeout, Sacred Heart inbounded the ball under its own basket and got off a good shot, but it didn’t convert as time ran out.
The first half was key for Hopkins, which used an effective man-to-man defense, mixed in with a little bit of zone to hold the home team to nine points.
“We always talk about high pressuring and don’t allow penetration and I thought our girls did a good job of that,” Blake said. “The second half, they did a good job of making cuts and getting everyone involved, so we had to change up our defense a little bit.”
Eckerson’s jump shot near the foul line tied the score at 6 for the Tigers with 10:40 left in the opening half, but the Hilltoppers went on a 10-0 run over a nearly six-minute span to seize a 16-6 lead. Smith scored in the low post, Phelan buried a jumper from the elbow senior guard Emma Lipman swished a 3-pointer from the right corner, putting the visitors on top, 13-6 with 7:28 remaining in the first half.
“We were trying to feed the post,” Smith said. “They were shorter than us, so we wanted to get the ball into the post and have them get fouls, which was key for us.”
Trailing by 11 points at haltime, the Tigers methodically chipped away at the Hilltoppers’ lead during the second half. Eckerson began the half with baskets off a putback and low post move, then Atkins converted a layup off a steal, making it 20-15.
“It’s defintely hard when you dig yourselves a hole in the beginning of the game — our shooting was off,” said Sacred Heart junior guard Ryan Smith, who made numerous steals. “We were definitely tired coming off our game yesterday, but the second half we came out strong and we were pumped up and ready to go.”
Down 31-23 after Smith made a foul line jumper, the Tigers went on a 9-0 run to gain a one-point lead. Senior guard Stephanie Jordan, who sparked the Tigers off the bench started the rally with a free throw and Atkins scored four points during the run.
“During halftime, we realized our plays weren’t working against the defense they were playing, so we worked on slowing it down and focused on our shot selection,” Atkins said. “We wanted to get it to our post player and we stepped it up on defense.”
Said Hart: “We played very well in the second half. If we played the first half like we played the second half we would have won the game.”
In their 46-44 win against Hamden Hall Country Day School on Friday, Eckerson had 11 points and 12 rebounds, Atkins scored 12 points and Smith contributed nine points.
Sacred Heart hosts Westover School Wednesday at 4 p.m. Hopkins plays Watkinson in a 4 p.m. home game on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, we were on a losing streak, so this broke it,” Galen Smith said. “We had a lot riding on this game and we really came through. We have been trying to build on our team spirit and that’s what came through for us.”
HOPKINS 33, SACRED HEART 32
HOPKINS 20 13 — 33
SACRED HEART 9 23 — 32
Jasmine Simmons 0 3-4 3; Samantha Phelan 3 0-0 7; Emma Lipman 2 0-0 5; Galen Smith 4 3-5 11; Ella Zuse 0 1-2 1; Casey Dies 0 4-4 4; Nia Simmons 1 0-0 2. Totals: 10 11-15 33.
SACRED HEART (4-4)
Ryan Smith 1 0-2 2; Ayna Ramseur-Moore 0 1-2 1; MaryAnne Gallagher 1 0-0 2; Claire Liddy 2 0-0 4; Stephanie Jordan 0 3-4 3; Leah Atkins 4 2-4 10; Sarah Eckerson 5 0-0 10; Sophia Curto 0 0-0 0; Ciara Henry 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 6-12 32.
3-pointers: H — Phelan, Lipman.