Last season was one to remember for the Greenwich Academy basketball team, which advanced to the FAA Tournament finals for the first time since 1997 and finished the year with an impressive 19-6 record.
This winter, the Gators are intent on producing more memorable moments.
With forward Kaitlyn Davis beginning her fourth season on the squad and a deep, talented backcourt returning, GA should be primed to build on one of its most successful seasons in program history.
“We are young, but we are going to be good,” said Greenwich Academy coach Wes Matthews, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1987 and 1988 NBA championship teams. “They had a taste of what it is like to get to the finals last season and now they are on a mission to do that again and again.”
Davis, a junior 6-foot-1, high-scoring forward, who eclipsed the 1,000 career point plateau last season, can effectively play any position.
“Kaitlyn is a perfect basketball player,” Matthews said. “She is a junior with a basketball IQ of a college player. She is unselfish to a fault on the court and her ability to work hard is so impressive. She’s a gem.”
The Gators are captained by Davis’ twin sister Olivia and senior forward Casey Gottlieb. Sophomore Francesca Sileo, who turned in a sensational freshman campaign, once again, brings her long-range perimeter shooting to the backcourt.
Greenwich Academy suffered a 45-24 season-opening road loss to Kent School on Wednesday, but Kaitlyn Davis (recovering from an injury), Olivia Davis (school trip) and Sileo (ankle injury) did not play. Kaitlyn Davis practiced Thursday and should be back in action soon. Olivia Davis will be available for the team’s next game and Sileo could possibly return next week.
“Once we get everyone back, we are full-steam ahead,” Matthews said.
Besides making it to the championship game of the FAA Tournament, where it lost to St. Luke’s School, GA also made its first-ever appearance in the NEPSAC Tournament last season.
“I really want to win the FAA before I graduate and return to the NEPSAC Tournament,” Gottlieb said. “We want every person to get confident in their ability, so we can play as a team and have very good depth.”
AT THE HELM: Matthews is beginning his fourth season as the Gators’ coach. He was the University of Wisconsin’s second all-time leading scorer, after starring at Harding High School in Bridgeport. He was a point guard for six NBA teams, most notably, the Los Angeles Lakers. GA posted 13 consecutive wins at one point last winter and advanced to the FAA Tournament final by defeating Hopkins School in the quarterfinals and Sacred Heart in the semifinals. The previous season (2016-16), the Gators went 12-6 and made it to the FAA semifinals.
WHO’S GONE?: Shooting guard Brooke Powers and forward Alice Hudson were the graduates from last season’s successful squad. Powers was one of the team’s top 3-point shooting threats and helped ignite the squad offensively.
WHO’S BACK?: Kaitlyn Davis brings skill and experience at forward. She has been a member of the team since she was an eighth-grader.
“Winning the championship — that is our main goal,” Davis said. “We also want to get back to the NEPSAC Tournament. Being a part of this team has been a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot from being on this team.”
Olivia Davis can play both guard and forward, while Sileo, who made a habit of scoring in double figures last season, has the ability to flourish at both guard positions. Gottlieb brings depth, rebounding and intangibles at forward.
“Francesca can shoot the lights out, Olivia can do a little bit of everything and when I put Kaitlyn inside, she is tough to cover inside,” Matthews said. “Casey is our best rebounder and best defender inside on the post-up players.”
Some other returning player include sophomore point guard Tyler Gray and freshman forward Marie Brewer, who scored eight points in GA’s season-opener.
“Our guards are going to try to set up our bigs and distribute the ball down low,” Gray said. “That’s where we have a lot of key shooters.”
Freshman forward Ashley Telesca is one of the first-year players that should make an impact.
STRENGTHS: Davis is an all-around player, who can take a game over on both ends of the court. She averaged more than 20 points per game a season ago. Sileo, Olivia Davis and Tyler Gray should also contribute heavily in the scoring department, while Gottlieb brings leadership and strong defensive play.
“We’re working on our fitness and cardio, so we can outrun all of our opponents,” Gottlieb said. “We never want to let a team outhustle us.”
Said Kaitlyn Davis: “Right now, our passing and our ability to share the ball is good and we have a few good rebounders here.”
QUESTION MARKS: “We just need to work on knowing our rotations on defense, so we can get to the outside shooters,” Gray said. “That’s what hurt us in our previous game.”
“Our defense can be a strong point, we just haven’t played a lot together yet,” Matthews said.
SHOWDOWNS: Choate Rosemary Hall (Dec. 6), Holy Child (home, Dec. 8), Sacred Heart (away, Dec. 13), Hamden Hall (home, Jan. 24), Rye Country Day (away, Jan. 30), St. Luke’s (away, Feb. 9).