GREENWICH — Three consecutive losses followed a streak in which the Sacred Heart Greenwich basketball team won 12 of its first 13 games, so the Tigers knew it was time to bear down and get back on the winning track Saturday against Miss Porter’s School.
And the Tigers turned to their defense to do so.
Miss Porter’s entered halftime with a five-point lead, but managed to score only 11 second-half points, as Sacred Heart turned turnovers into points in registering a 42-32 comeback win.
Senior center Sarah Eckerson scored a game-high 15 points and junior guard Leah Atkins tallied 10 points for the 13-4 Tigers.
Delaney Nwachukwu, a junior forward, totaled 11 points, while junior forward Ana Bartkiewicz added nine points for Miss Porter’s, which held a 21-15 halftime advantage.
“We call ourselves a second half team, we seem to come out stronger in the second half, which was the case in this game,” said Eckerson, who scored nine second-half points. “We definitely made a turnaround in the second half and we did not lose our intensity, which helped us to get a win.”
Atkins scored seven points during the second half, while senior guard Ryan Smith finished the game with eight points for the victors. Applying full-court pressure, before falling back into a 1-3-1 zone was especially effective for the Tigers in the second half. Sisters Ryan Smith and Morgan Smith registered several steals, as did Leah Atkins and sophomore guard Alana Frederick.
“We have a bunch of different presses and Ryan up top hustles a lot, which is helpful,” Morgan Smith said. “It’s really effective for us to hop into our press after a basket.”
After Nwachukwu scored in the low post, giving Miss Porter’s a 23-16 lead, Sacred Heart went on a 10-0 run to go ahead, 26-23.
Morgan Smith and Eckerson each made a pair of free throws, Eckerson scored inside, Atkins swished a foul shot, then scored off a steal, giving the home team a 26-23 lead with 9:34 remaining in the second half.
Bartkiewicz made a 3-pointer from the right side, evening the score at 26-26, but the Tigers went on a 12-1 spurt to open a 38-26 advantage.
The visitors were limited to just five points the first 11:28 of the second half.
“Our defense always propels our offense,” Ryan Smith said. “By setting up the press, it set up the whole game for us. We lost to Miss Porter’s last season, so it’s good to get this win.”
Senior forward Claire Liddy scored off an inbounds pass, giving the home team the lead for good at 28-26. Morgan Smith made a layup off a steal, Atkins hit two foul shots and Ackerson converted a putback, making it 34-27. Atkins’ transition layup and Ackerson’s basket off a strong low post move, put Miss Porter’s in a 38-27 hole with 4:06 left to play.
Five straight points, three of which were by Nwachukwu cut the Tigers’ lead to 38-32 at the 1:58 mark, but that’s the closest Miss Porter’s got.
“When we looked at the FAA list we noticed that we’ve held teams to the lowest amount of points in the FAA, so our defense is key for us,” Sacred Heart coach Ayo Hart said. “We switched up our defenses, playing a 1-3-1 and a man-to-man and we did a good job of executing those changes.”
Nwachukwu and Bartkiewicz scored six points apiece in the first half, while junior forward Callie Godfrey had four to help give Miss Porter’s a six-point halftime edge. Godfrey finished with six points for Miss Porter’s (7-7).
“From the start we were determined to win and our press helped us come up with a lot of steals,” Atkins said. “The season is coming to a close, so hopefully we can keep it going and end with a bang.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Eckerson was the Tigers’ go-to player in the low post. She also grabbed numerous rebounds in the win.
“Having the three straight losses was tough, but I think we’re ready to go on another winning streak,” Morgan Smith said.
SACRED HEART-Greenwich 42, MISS PORTER’S 32
MISS PORTER’S 21 11 — 32
SACRED HEART 15 27 — 42
MISS PORTER’S (42)
Callie Godrey 2 2-3 6; McKenzie Roller 0 0- 0; Elizabeth Straughter 0 0-0 0; Delaney Nwachukwu 4 3-4 11; Lila Conners 1 0-0 2; Sarah Zukowski 1 1-2 4; Ana Bartkiewicz 4 0-0 9. Totals: 12 6-9 32
SACRED HEART (42)
Ryan Smith 2 4-5 8; Alana Frederick 1 0-0 2; Claire Liddy 1 0-0 2; Morgan Smith 1 3-4 5; Leah Atkins 3 4-5 10; Sarah Eckerson 6 3-5 15. Totals: 14 14-19 42.
3-pointers: MP — Bartkiewicz, Zukowski.
Records: Sacred Heart 13-4; Miss Porter’s 7-7.