After going several years without a win at the annual Holiday event, the Cardinals proudly exited Darien High School Monday with the championship trophy in their possession.
Tournament MVP Caroline Barrett made sure Greenwich accomplished its first goal of the season, scoring 14 of her game-high 18 points in the first half of the Cardinals' 53-46 triumph over New Canaan in the finals of the seventh annual Tony LaVista Tournament.
"The last three years we've come here we lost every single game, so at the beginning of the season when we wrote down our goals and at the top of the list was to win this tournament," said Barrett, a senior guard and quad-captain. "We put a lot of emphasis on these games and really focused on playing strong defense."
Greenwich freshman center Abby Wolf made her mark in the second half after New Canaan focused their attention on containing Barrett, scoring 11 of her 14 points.
"I haven't been here long, but I heard the team hasn't won a game in the tournament in a few years, so it's awesome to be able to win it for Caroline and all of the seniors on the team," Wolf said. "I'm glad that we came back strong because we were down after the third quarter."
Sophomore Jamie Kockenmeister added seven points for Greenwich, while forward/center Kelly Armstrong had 13 points to pace New Canaan, which led 40-37 after three quarters.
"Greenwich put a little pressure on us and unfortunately we turned the ball over too many times in the fourth quarter," said New Canaan coach Kim Palmer, who saw her squad's four-game winning streak come to an end. "We couldn't capitalize when we had the ball toward the end."
Wolf gave the Cardinals (3-5) the lead for good at 41-40 with 6:15 left in the final quarter, scoring in transition off a pass from Barrett. Junior guard Rebecca DeCarlo made one of two free throws and Wolf scored on a putback, giving the Cards a 44-40 edge midway through the fourth quarter. After the Rams (4-2) closed to within 44-43 on Armstrong's foul shot with 2:20 remaining, Barrett set Wolf up for a layup, then scored in transition, making 48-43 with 1:05 left.
The Rams had trouble getting open looks at the basket in the fourth quarter, as Greenwich used its aggressive man-to-man and 2-3 zone defense to hold New Canaan to six points.
"We tried to switch up our defenses and keep them guessing," GHS second-year coach Chrys Hernandez said. "All in all, we were aggressive. I think we're finally coming together."
Armstrong's eight points, four of which came off the press breaker, gave New Canaan a 13-11 advantage after the first quarter. Trailing 20-19 after senior guard Brianna McEwan (12 points) swished a 3-pointer from the right side, the Cardinals ended the first half with an 11-3 run to open a 30-23 lead. Barrett scored six points during the stretch, two of which came off a floater in the lane with five seconds remaining in the opening half.
"Caroline played phenomenal this entire tournament," Hernandez said. "She earned everything she got. They made an adjustment, almost going to a box-and-one in the second half to make sure she didn't get the ball. But a lot of players stepped up for us."
Baskets from sophomore Alexa Moses and Kockenmeister put the Cards up 36-30 with 3:33 left in the third quarter, but the Rams ended the quarter strong, seizing a 40-37 lead. Sophomore guard Elizabeth Miller helped get New Canaan going offensively, scoring 11 points.
"We moved the ball really well and received scoring from multiple people, which was a good sign," Palmer said. "We are definitely improving. Give Greenwich credit, they are a good team and I think they will be in the running toward the end of the season."
Wolf, who made the All-Tournament Team, along with McEwan, was a force in the low post in the fourth quarter for GHS, which turned up its intensity on defense.
"Abby stepped up again today and everyone was there for us on defense and hitting the boards," Barrett said.
GREENWICH 53, NEW CANAAN 46
GREENWICH 11 19 7 16 -- 53
NEW CANAAN 13 10 17 6 -- 46
Caroline Barrett 7 2-3 18; Abby Wolf 6 2-4 14; Jamie Kockenmeister 3 1-2 7; Jenny Cespedes 0 2-3 2; Rebecca Kural 1 0-0 2; Rebecca DeCarlo 0 1-2 1; Alexa Moses 2 1-3 5; Brittany Rodriguez 1 2-4 4; Leigh Galletta 0 0-0 0; Gabriela Ruiz 0 0-0 0. 20 11-21 53.
NEW CANAAN (46)
Kelly Armstrong 6 1-2 13; Brianna McEwan 4 0-0 11; Elizabeth Miller 3 3-4 12; Colette Pellegrini 2 0-4 4; Page Jones 0 2-2 2; Georgia Hunsinger 2 0-0 4; Courtney Rogers 0 0-0 0; Lindsay Seelert 0 0-0 0; Marina Braccio 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 6-12 46.
3-pointers: G -- Barrett 2; NC -- McEwan 3, Miller 3.
Records: Greenwich 3-5; New Canaan 4-2.