GREENWICH — Tuesday’s basketball game between FAA foes Sacred Heart Greenwich and Greens Farms Academy was truly a tale of two halves, with the Tigers dominating the first half and the Dragons gaining the momentum in the second.
But a 20-point halftime hole was just too much for visiting Greens Farms Academy to overcome.
Junior center Sarah Eckerson scored a game-high 23 points for host Sacred Heart, which built a double-digit lead by converting a high percentage of its shots in the first half in its well-earned 52-44 victory over Greens Farms.
A pivotal 18-0 run during an 8-minute first-half stretch opened a 23-7 Tigers lead.
“We came out really strong, we were really excited for this game, it was a big one for us,” said Eckerson, who totaled 14 points in the second half. “We just had really high energy and we were making smart passes in the first half. Focusing on protecting the ball is a big thing for us.”
Junior guard Ryan Smith tallied nine points, including one 3-pointer, while sophomore guard Leah Atkins scored 10 points for Sacred Heart (5-4). The Tigers entered halftime with a 33-13 lead, before the Dragons methodically chipped away at their deficit in the second half.
“Our offense was stagnant, we did not rebound and we made careless turnovers in the first half,” Greens Farms coach Jennifer Harris said. “We dug a hole for ourselves and we tried to craw out of it. We are a much better team than we presented ourselves today in the first half — we were two different teams today.”
Junior guard Katherine Marcus scored a team-high 22 points, while junior forward Kelly Van Hoesen added 11 points for Greens Farms (5-8).
After the Dragons took a 7-5 edge with 13:15 remaining in the first half, the Tigers scored 18 unanswered points over the next eight minutes. Senior forward Ciara Henry started the Tigers run by swishing a 3-pointer from the right side. Eckerson scored off a strong low post move and Smith made a layup off steal giving Sacred Heart a 12-7 lead with 10:21 to go in the first half.
Consecutive baskets from Atkins, a layup from Smith and a 3-pointer from the left corner by Henry increased Sacred Heart’s advantage to 21-7 at the 6:28 mark of the opening half. Senior forward Ayna Ramseur-Moore’s layup off a pass from Atkins capped the 18-0 spurt.
“When everyone gets the right shot on offense it’s a great feeling,” Atkins said. “We knew this was going to be a high-intensity game. There is still room for improvement, but we are getting more uncontested shots.”
Said Tigers coach Ayo Hart: “We were getting layups from our defense, Sarah was working inside and Leah and Ryan were working in transition.”
FINDING THEIR RHYTHM
Greens Farms worked its way back into the game behind Marcus, who scored 20 of her team-best 22 points during the second half. She scored her squad’s first nine points in the second half, bringing them to with 36-22. Her basket with 1:20 remaining made it 51-41.
“Personally, I was stagnant in the first half,” Marcus said. “I was not playing my game. The second half, I was more aggressive. As a team, in the first half, we weren’t first to the ball and they were getting more rebounds. In the second half, we were playing more as a team and we were more cohesive.”
The Dragons, who mostly played a 2-3 zone, utilized a full-court press during the second half, which created Tigers turnovers. Forward Georgia Grabowski added nine points for Greens Farms.
“I think this game is a good wake-up call for us,” Marcus said. “It shows that we can’t get down in the first half and created a 20-point deficit. It’s hard to come back from that no matter what team you are.”
Eckerson made key baskets, several of which came off short jumpers, to hold off the visitors’ second-half rally.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Eckerson scored 12 points in the second half and was difficult to contend with in the low post throughout.
“Sarah is developing every week,” Hart said. “When we get her the ball inside she is having a stronger scoring mentality.”
“We need to keep our defense up, which is something we did in the first half, holding them to 13 points,” Eckerson said. “Defense is something we always focus on.”
SACRED HEART 52, GREENS FARMS 44
GREENS FARMS (5-8)
Hannah Kozdeba 1 0-1 2; Katherine Marcus 6 9-12 22; Kelly Van Hoesen 4 3-5 11; Georgia Grabowski 3 2-3 9; Elyse Kimball 0 0-0 0; Sarah Peltier 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 14-21 44.
SACRED HEART (5-4)
Ryan Smith 3 2-9 9; Ciara Henry 2 0-0 6; Ayna Ramseur-Moore 2 0-0 4; Leah Atkins 5 0-2 10; Sarah Eckerson 11 1-6 23; Stephanie Jordan 0 0-0 0; Claire Liddy 0 0-0 0; MaryAnne Gallagher 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 3-17 52.