GREENWICH — Back and forth the lead went during Wednesday’s basketball matchup between Sacred Heart Greenwich and Masters School, as the FAA rivals each had their moments the majority of the game.
Both squads made several runs, but visiting Masters eventually embarked on one the Tigers couldn’t recover from.
A pivotal 15-2 run midway through the second half propelled Masters past Sacred Heart, 67-59.
The score was tied at 44-44 before the Panthers gained separation with the crucial spurt. Forward Brooke Tatarian, who recently eclipsed the 1,000 career-point plateau, scored 15 points for Masters (14-6). Junior Gwenn Sabato added 14 points, while teammate Kendra Cooper-Smith finished with 11 points for the victors.
Leading Masters’ balanced scoring effort was forward Noemia Massingue, who poured in 16 points, while shooting 7 of 9 from the foul line.
Sacred Heart, which celebrated Senior Day in its regular-season finale, is 16-5 on the season and appears to be locked into the No. 2 seed in the FAA Tournament, which commences on Tuesday. The Tigers will host the quarterfinal-round of the tournament.
Senior center Sarah Eckerson scored a game-high 26 points, while junior guard Leah Atkins registered 15 points for Sacred Heart.
“I thought it was a good Senior Night, there was good energy and we showed we could compete against a very good Masters team,” Tigers coach Ayo Hart said. “Our turnovers is what it came down to. They capitalized on our turnovers. We were able to pull it together with our defense, but on offense, we couldn’t seem to get the ball to the right spot at the right time. Our passing was a little off.”
Eckerson’s putback, Francois O’Brien’s layup off a steal and three free throws by Eckerson gave Sacred Heart a 37-32 lead at the 13:05 mark of the second half.
With just over 12 minutes remaining, Masters took a 42-40 edge on Sabato’s layup after she made a steal. O’Brien’s basket tied it a 42-42, then the Panthers opened a double-digit lead.
Tatarian’s lefy layup, Allie Koziarz’s 3-pointer and a pair of Massingue foul shots, put the visitors on top, 49-42. Senior forward Claire Liddy swished a jump shot from the elbow, making it 49-44, but Masters scored the next seven points to seize a 57-44 advantage.
“We made the shots when we needed them the most,” Masters coach Nick Volchok said. “Sacred Heart was doing a great job of breaking our press in the first half, and in the second half we were able to turn them over a couple of times and that led to some easier shots for us. But they were tremendous on defense the whole game.”
Olivia Caponiti grabbed an offensive rebound and converted it into points, then Atkins scored on consecutive fastbreak layups, giving the home team a 23-19 edge with 3:47 to go in the opening half.
Sabato fueled an 8-0 run that gave put the Panthers on top, 26-23, tallying in transition off Sacred Heart turnovers.
After Eckerson scored in the low post, Sabato, made it 30-27 at halftime, by driving the baseline for a layup.
Liddy scored six points for Sacred Heart, while senior guard Ryan Smith scored four points and helped anchor the squad’s aggressive defensive effort. The duo are the Tigers’ captains.
“It’s been pretty great to be a captain of this team, we have an amazing group of girls,” Liddy said. “Our job has been to make the team closer and keep everyone on the on the same page.”
The Tigers left the game impressed with their opponents, who are not going to compete in the FAA Tournament. They will instead play in a New York State Independent Schools Tournament next week.
“They were tough they did what we usually do to other teams,” Liddy said of Masters. “They played good defense and were able to get a lot of steals.”
Guard Dakota Daniello contributed six points, while guard Allie Koziarz had five points for the victors.
Sacred Heart now looks ahead to making its mark in the FAA Tournament, where they will get a first-round home game.
“We are really looking forward to the playoffs this year, we have the most potential this year to go as far as we have been in a while,” Smith said. “We have the home court advantage hopefully, so we have to take advantage of it. Our team played well today, when we had the lead, it was ignited by our defense.”
Added Eckerson, who scored 13 points in each half Wednesday by showing her force inside: “We just need to keep our focus and keep moving forward. Masters is one of the best teams to play in the FAA and we did a good job of competing with them. It wasn’t our best day, but we were still right there with them for most of the game.”
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
The Panthers’ trio of Massingue, Tatarian and Sabato combined for 45 points. All three players showcased their ability to drive to the basket and a soft touch from the perimeter.
Eckerson was tough for Masters to deal with in the paint, as she turned several offensive rebounds into points and was effective on the defensive backboards.
“If we played our game tonight, we could have won, but hats off to Masters, they’re a good team,” Hart said. “The future is bright for our team — this could be the first time ever that we’re going to New Englands (NEPSAC Tournament).”
MASTERS 67, SACRED HEART GREENWICH 59
Kendra Cooper-Smith 5 0-0 11; Brooke Tatarian 6 2-2 15; Gwenn Sabato 5 4-8 14; Allie Koziarz 2 0-0 5; Noemia Massingue 4 7-9 16; Dakota Daniello 2 2-2 6. Totals: 24 15-21 67.
SACRED HEART GREENWICH (16-5)
Ryan Smith 2 0-0 4; Claire Liddy 3 0-0 6; Sarah Eckerson 11 4-8 26; Francoise O’Brien 2 0-0 4; Leah Atkins 6 3-5 15; Morgan Smith 1 0-0 2; Olivia Caponiti 1 0-0 2; Lindsay Morgner 1 0-0 2. Totals: 27 7-13 58.
3-pointers: M – Cooper-Smith, Tatarian, Koziarz, Massingue.