GREENWICH -- Greenwich girls basketball coach Chrys Hernandez knows the key to a breakout season for her squad lies on the defensive end of the floor.
To storm out of the blocks with a resounding effort to begin the year will certainly raise the confidence level of her Cardinals as they seek to make a claim at an FCIAC playoff berth.
Jenny Cespedes scored 17 points as Greenwich used a dominant defensive effort to roll to a 42-31 win over visiting New Canaan in the season opener for both teams.
"I think we played hard and stuck to the game plan, which was control the tempo and be swarming on defense," Hernandez said. "We wanted to keep them off balance and give them different looks, not let them get comfortable with any one thing."
Greenwich held New Canaan to 20 points over the final three quarters, creating numerous turnovers with a full court pressure and denying easy looks at the basket once the Rams got in their sets.
"We have been working on our defense," Cespedes said. "We communicated very well and we were there for each other. "Once we got into half time we decided we were never going to let up and go twice as hard."
The difference in the score line proved to be the second quarter, where Greenwich outscored the visitors 15-4 and took control of the game behind the hot shooting of Cespedes. The senior hit four straight shots to break open a close game late in the first half.
"Jenny is a strong player," Hernandez said. "She is a strong player and aggressive towards the basketball. She is a floor leader; I put a lot on her plate and she responds every time."
It was a difficult night shooting for the Rams, who went 3-for-19 from long range and 7-for-17 from the foul line. The misses compounded New Canaan's disadvantage on the boards, as Abbie Wolf and Rebecca Kural combined for 25 rebounds for Greenwich.
"We left everything they had out on the court," New Canaan coach Kim Palmer said. "Sometimes the shots go in for you and sometimes they don't. We took a lot of shots, but we missed a lot of easy shots under the basket. If some of them went in it would have been a different story tonight."
The Rams clawed to within five points midway through the 4th quarter, but Greenwich put the clamps down and only allowed one New Canaan point over the final five minutes of the game. Kelly Armstrong led New Canaan with 15 points.
"I'm assuming we are going to see a lot of presses this year," Palmer said. "A press can rattle you and once we were able to figure it out we were able to get to half court. But again if you don't finish on the opportunities two-on-one or putbacks it's going to hurt."
The visitors also began life without Sarah Mannelly, a first-team all FCIAC member in her final three years at New Canaan. Although the void was clear Wednesday, Palmer believes her accomplishments can still resonate through the squad.
"Obviously she was a huge impact player and she set a high standard for us," Palmer said. "Our girls learned from her and raised their level of play, and this year we have to take what we learned on the court into this season."
Greenwich 42, New Canaan 31
NEW CANAAN (0-1, 0-1)
Totals: 10 7-17 31.
GREENWICH (1-0, 1-0)
Caroline Barrett 1 2-2 4 Rebecca Kural 0 0-0 0 Jenny Cespedes 4 8-12 17 Abbie Wolf 1 0-4 3 Rebecca DeCarlo 1 1-7 3 Alexa Moses 0 5-6 5 Jamie Kockenmeister 4 2-2 10. Totals: 11 18-33 42.
NEW CANAAN 11 4 8 8 -- 31
GREENWICH 10 15 5 12 -- 42
3-Pointers: NC--Courtney Rogers (2), Elizabeth Miller. G --Jenny Cespedes.