Following a game in which points were tough to come by, especially in the first half, the Greenwich High School girls basketball team regained its shooting touch on Friday night.
Mackenzie Nelson made sure the Cardinals got back on track offensively.
Nelson, a freshman forward, scored a game-high 29 points, 17 of which came during the second half, to spark host Greenwich to a 50-37 victory over Darien in an FCIAC matchup.
The win upped Greenwich’s record to 6-2, while Darien sports a 5-3 mark. Freshman guard Ava Sollenne scored nine points, while sophomore point guard Kristin Riggs converted two 3-pointers for six points for the Cardinals. Greenwich got back on the winning track after losing to FCIAC foe New Canaan on Tuesday, 37-33.
“It was a really important win, because the loss we had to New Canaan wasn’t one of our best games,” Nelson said. “But coming back strong and moving the ball really helped us.”
For Darien, senior guard/forward Lindsay Dimonekas totaled 12 points, senior guard Kelly Richter added 11 points and senior guard/forward Shea Dolce contributed eight.
“After we got through their pressure defense, we were rushing and just throwing some shots up like it was a hot potato,” Darien coach Melba Chambers said. “We needed to settle down after we broke their press and we could have done a better job of taking care of the ball and not force quick shots.”
Nelson converted a layup off a steal and swished a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Cardinals a 17-11 lead with 1:21 remaining in the first quarter. A 3-pointer by Riggs put the home team ahead, 22-13, at the 7:15 mark of the second quarter.
Darien closed to with 22-16 on Richter’s 3-pointer, but GHS doubled their lead to 37-25 after three quarters.
“I was really pleased with the team’s play,” GHS coach Chrys Hernandez said. “Our strength has been playing together as a team and tonight they got back to that. We knew it was going to be a tough game, because Darien has a great record.”
Nelson’s 3-pointer from the top of the key and shot from beyond the arc from the right wing against the Blue Wave’s man-to-man defense, made it 31-18 with 5:20 to go in the third quarter. Riggs’ shot from 3-point range widened Greenwich’s advantage to 37-22 late in the second quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Blue Wave cut Greenwich’s lead to 39-30 on baskets from Dolce and Dimonekas.
“We showed spurts when we were aggressive and we were stopping them from scoring,” Chambers said. “We just needed to do that on more of a consistent basis. That’s the team we have been this season, so it’s a little frustrating to see us not do that today.”
Nelson took over in the fourth quarter.
She scored off a steal, then made two 3-pointers, putting the Cards on top, 45-22 with 2:58 left. With Nelson leading the frontcourt, Sollenne and Riggs efficiently paced the backcourt for Greenwich.
“We made sure we got the ball in and out, which helped us get good, open shots,” Nelson said. “When we did shoot the ball, we passed it back in for open layups. We wanted to shut down their top scorers and we did.”
Senior forward Ciara Munnelly added four points for the victors, who host Stamford on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Greenwich effectively rotated between a zone and man-to-man defense Friday, mixing in full-court pressure defense.
“On defense, for our press, we all moved around and we talked with each other and we knew who to pick up,” Sollenne said. “Our communication was really on point today, which helped us get a lot of steals. We knew we had to come out strong, because of our loss against New Canaan and our energy is up.”
Greenwich converted five of its six foul shots for the game and entered half with a 24-16 lead. Sollenne grabbed six rebounds, sophomore forward Kelly Martyanov had six rebounds, Kayla Anderson added four rebounds and Sollenne totaled six steals.
Up next for Darien is a matchup against Wilton on the road on Tuesday.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nelson converted six 3-pointers, made all three of our foul shots, had six rebounds, five steals and four assists in the winning effort.
“The scoring prowess that Mackenzie has consistently shown is something I don’t think this town has seen,” Hernandez. “At least not in my time.”
“We knew we had to come back from that New Canaan loss and we had to focus on communicating,” Munnelly said. “We came here tonight focused on winning, especially against a team like Darien, which is always strong and a big rival of Greenwich.”