NEW CANAAN — It’s time to build a bigger trophy case.
The St. Luke’s girls basketball team captured its fifth consecutive Fairchester Athletic Association Tournament title Friday night thanks to a 76-55 victory over Greens Farms Academy before a thrilled and raucous home crowd.
Although No. 1 seed St. Luke’s (20-5 overall) led from the opening tip to the final buzzer, the Storm had to repulse a number of challenges from No. 2 seed GFA, which was searching for its first FAA Tournament crown.
“Both teams were playing man-to-man defense, which is rare. But that style is all about physicality,” said St. Luke’s coach Matthew Ward. “The referees did a good job trying to maintain control (50 free throws in all). Ultimately, it was just two teams fighting hard to win a title.”
The balance of the St. Luke’s squad — which was in the FAA Tournament final for the seventh consecutive year — won the battle as sophomore Caroline Lau was a brilliant floor general.
Lau — who had a 3-pointer from 30 feet with 3:34 left in the third quarter and another 3-pointer at 1:09 to deflate GFA — finished with a team-high 22 points along with seven assists and nine rebounds.
“Every since I came to St. Luke’s in eighth grade I’ve been extending my shooting range. I saw the opening (from 30 feet) and let it go,” Lau said. “It’s been special and fun winning FAA titles with this group.”
Freshman center Brielle Renwick had 14 points followed by seniors Summer Klein (11), Janelle Johnson (10) and Alexia Watson (nine) for the Storm.
St. Luke’s led 23-18 after one period, 35-26 at halftime and 54-45 after three quarters. The Storm opened the fourth period with a 9-0 surge for 63-45 with 5:25 left.
“I felt very confident after the first quarter. The home court atmosphere was in our favor. The fans (St. Luke’s student section “The Monsoon”) were so great,” said St. Luke’s Klein, who will play college basketball at Nichols College in the fall. “Winning another title as a senior means the world. It adds to a special legacy.”
“It’s become a big rivalry with GFA. Our group is about being the best,” St. Luke’s Johnson said. “We knew it would be a dogfight. But we’ve had an abilitry all year to overcome any adversity.”
Both teams will receive invitations (in different divisions) to the NEPSAC Tournament on Sunday. But it was an amazing FAA season for GFA (22-3 overall).
Leading the way for the Dragons was Allie Palmieri. The transfer from Trumbull poured in a game-high 35 points including four 3-pointers and 13 of 16 from the line.
“We are hungry to continue our tremendous season at the NEPSAC Tournament,” said GFA coach Jennifer Harris. “St. Luke’s made a lot of shots including a bunch of tough shots. Every time we hit a big shot, they answered.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
GFA’s Allie Palmieri: The forward scored a game-high 35 points in the paint, from the 3-point arc and on the free throw line.
“This title was the hardest for us. GFA’s Palmieri is a star,” said St. Luke’s coach Matthew Ward. “How hard we had to work and the belief all our girls had in each other makes this championship more rewarding.”