GREENWICH — Fittingly, Michelle Morganti paced Greenwich’s offense on Senior Night.
The senior guard stepped up in a big way on Senior Night, scoring a team-high 18 points to help power the Cardinals to a win on a special evening for the team’s most experienced players.
Morganti’s clutch offensive play helped propel Greenwich to a 44-35 victory over visiting Wilton in a late-season FCIAC matchup.
With the win, the Cardinals (5-10) kept their hopes of qualifying for the CIAC Class Tournament alive. Greenwich must win its remaining three games to make the state tournament.
Freshman guard Kristin Riggs scored nine points off the bench, including three 3-pointers, while junior guard Jordan Moses and junior forward Julia Conforti added four points apiece.
Driving to the basket and converting shots from the perimeter, Morganti scored 14-first half points for Greenwich, which entered halftime with a 23-11 lead.
“My shot has been on the past few games, so I was looking to shoot more,” Morganti said. “I was trying to help the team as much as I could get this win on Senior Night. Everyone did really well, we got a lot of points off the bench, which was good. We did a good job of swinging the ball and moving the ball all night.”
Said GHS coach Chrys Hernandez: “We had a slow shooting start even though our intensity was there, we were getting steals, we just weren’t finishing. But we knew those shots we weren’t finishing were eventually going to fall in the second quarter and they did.”
Senior forward Sophia Strazza shot Wilton back into the game, making four 3-pointers during the second half for all 12 of her points. Sophomore forward Riley Eaton added 10 points, while freshman guard Leah Martins had seven second-half points for Wilton.
The Warriors held a 9-5 lead after the first quarter, but managed only two second quarter points. Greenwich’s press bothered the Warriors, forcing numerous turnovers in the first, which were converted into points. The Cardinals half court man-to-man defense was also effective.
“When you have nine freshman and sophomores on the team you are going to make young mistakes,” Wilton coach Fred Francello said. “We don’t have much experience, so we are looking for some of the younger players to carry us. In a lot of our games, we’ve had the same thing, we get in that hurry-up mode. We had the lead in the beginning of the second quarter and got a little bit impatient.”
Greenwich trailed 9-5 after the first quarter, following a 6:12 scoreless stretch at the end of the quarter. But the Cardinals found rhythm on offense in the second quarter. The home team started the second quarter with a 13-0 run to open an 18-9 lead.
Conforti converted a jump shot off the dribble to tie the score at 9-9 and Moses made a mid-range jumper, giving the Cards the lead for good at 11-9.
Stamos went glass for a basket, Morganti drove left and hit a layup while being fouled and Conforti made a runner in the lane, making it 18-9 with 3:40 left in the second quarter.
Senior Kaitlin Reif stopped Greenwich’s run with a basket, but Morganti scored the final five points of the second quarter, making it 23-11.
“The first half our shots weren’t falling, we were still moving the ball, getting shots up, which was good, we had good energy,” said Moses, who along with Morganti and senior Taylor Stamos captains the Cards. “The second half, we started to get a lot more offensive rebounds and that led to the win. We have three more games have to get three more wins.”
Riggs and sophomore Marielle Povinelli each swished 3-pointers, giving GHS leads of 28-14 and 37-23 in the third quarter. Wilton cut into the Cardinals’ lead in the fourth quarter, with Eaton leading the way with impressive long-range shooting, but it was too late.
”Are we disappointed we lost, of course we are,” Francello said. “But we have a 30-minute rule. You can only think about the game for 30 minutes after the game, then after that you have to move on. We have Ridgefield tomorrow night) Wednesday.”
The Cardinals’ defense also aided its offense.
“Our press definitely slowed them down and we got a lot of transition points,” Morganti said. “Defensively, we played well throughout the game.”
Stamos, a senior center, had two points, made several steals and paced the Cardinals on the offensive and defensive boards.
“Being a part of this team has been such a great experience,” Stamos said. “It’s taught me a lot of life lessons that I’ll carry through with me for the rest of my life on and off the court. Tonight, we really hustled and communicated, which really helped us.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Morganti’s 14 first-half points, nine of which came during the second quarter, ignited Greenwich in the first half. She also had all of the Cards’ five first-quarter points.
“Our seniors have been an integral part of everything we have accomplished thus far this season,” Hernandez said. “Even thought it may not show it in the win-loss column, their presence has been felt and has been needed in every single game.”
GREENWICH 44, WILTON 35
WILTON 9 2 12 12 — 35
GREENWICH 5 18 14 7 — 44
Catherine Dineen 0 0-2 0; Kaitlin Reif 2 1-2 5; Riley Eaton 4 0-0 8; Maddie Burke 1 1-2 3; Leah Martins 3 0-0 7; Sophia Strazza 4 0-0 12. Totals: 14 2-6 35.
Julia Conforti 2 0-0 4; Jordan Moses 1 2-2 4; Ciara Munnelly 0 0-0 0; Michelle Morganti 7 3-4 18; Kristin Riggs 3 0-0 9; Marielle Povinelli 1 0-0 3; Kate Lougran 2 0-0 4; Taylor Stamos 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 5-6 44.
3-pointers: W — Strazza 4, Martins; G — Riggs 3, Povinelli, Morganti.