GREENWICH — Stamford entered Tuesday night’s game against FCIAC girls basketball foe Greenwich undefeated and with a one-point lead with just over one minute remaining, it was close to keeping its winning streak going.
Yet the Cardinals had the final say and in the process, produced a statement win.
Scoring seven of the game’s last nine points, Greenwich pulled out an impressive 54-49 comeback victory over the visiting Black Knights.
Freshman forward Mackenzie Nelson scored a game-high 20 points, while sophomore forward Kelly Martyanov added 10 points and sophomore guard Kristin Riggs had nine for Greenwich, which ran its record to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in FCIAC play.
“It was definitely a quality win against a quality team,” Cardinals coach Chrys Hernandez said. “Every single year that we play Stamford it’s always a competitive game and it’s always high energy. We prepared for them and these girls stuck to the game plan.”
Emily Graham, a junior forward, totaled 11 points, as did senior forward Jessica Nelson for Stamford (7-1, 5-1 FCIAC). The Knights went into the game ranked No. 5 in the GameTimeCT Top-10 poll.
“They came out and scored 21 points in the first quarter, Greenwich is a great team,” Stamford coach Diane Burns said. “But for us, defense is our bread and butter. We didn’t start out that way, we dug ourselves a nice little hole, which was tough to come out of.”
Senior forward Megan Landsiedel contributed nine points for the Black Knights, who took a 47-45 lead on the Cardinals on a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Carly Diamond with 3:58 remaining.
After Martyanov made a foul shot, Nelson converted a layup off a steal, giving GHS the lead for good at 48-47 with 1:26 left to play. Martanov made a layup off a pass from freshman guard Ava Sollenne, putting the Cardinals up, 50-47, with 56.7 seconds to go in the final quarter. Martyanov scored off a putback, increasing the Cards’ advantage to 52-47 with 34 seconds remaining.
“It was great, because we had a lot of contributions from everyone off the bench,” said Nelson, who scored 11 first-half points. “We had players rebounding, hitting jump shots, getting putbacks and making steals.”
Greenwich took a 20-13 lead into the second quarter, behind five points apiece from Nelson and Riggs in the opening quarter. Stamford’s Jessica Nelson’s 3-pointer put the visitors ahead 13-10, but GHS ended the first quarter with a 10-0 run. Sollenne swished a 3-pointer from the right side, Riggs banked in a shot in the lane, senior forward Julia Conforti scored off a putback and Riggs made a shot from beyond the arc, sealing the Cards’ spurt. Meanwhile, the Cardinals played solid defense, helping gain a first-quarter advantage.
“We definitely played tight man defense, we knew they had a lot of good shooters, as well as good posts,” Conforti said. “So we just definitely worked on containing each individual player, so that’s how we pulled through.”
Stamford went on an 8-2 run to close to within 22-21. Sophomore Charlie Karukas swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key, evening the score at 28-28 for Stamford, before Nelson’s foul shot gave the home team a one-point halftime lead.
Stamford took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter, behind key baskets from Graham, Landsiedel and Nelson during the third quarter. Breanna Jacobs made two free throws, giving Stamford its biggest lead at 40-35 with 1:29 to go in the third quarter.
Riggs kept the Cardinals going offensively in the third quarter, making a pair of 3-pointers. Sollenne added a layup, cutting the visitors’ lead to 40-37.
Both teams played an effective man-to-man defense with some pressure mixed in. Senior Widline Thomas added four points and Jacobs had six for Stamford, which was outscored, 17-9 in the final quarter.
Martyanov had seven of her nine points in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve always been working as a team this whole season and it really showed today,” Martyanov said. “Everyone was contributing. We were passing the ball, getting rebounds and playing good defense. We always work on rebounding and boxing out and it shows.”
Added Hernandez: “Down the stretch we were able to stay poised. I can’t say enough about all the girls and how they played. Every single player elevated their game.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nelson’s 20 points paced GHS and she contributed a lot defensively as well, making several key steals.
“It was definitely a little frightening to know that they were undefeated, but we came out with energy, played our game and that’s why we won,” Nelson said.
POSITIVES IN LOSS FOR KNIGHTS
Burns was pleased with what she saw from her squad after it got off to a bit of a slow start in the matchup.
“From this game, I learned we are tough and we don’t mind a battle in competition, which is great,” Burns said. “We definitely have a balanced team, with kids of all ages and all scoring abilities.”
“They outhustled a little bit at the end,” Landsiedel said. “They are an aggressive defensive team and we had a few turnovers. But sometimes it’s good to get a loss, so we know how to come back.”