Sacred Heart Wins FAA Girls Basketball Tournament

Victoria Hart of Sacred Heart looks to pass the ball while being guarded by Sara Lau of St. Luke’s. Photo by David Fierro

By David Fierro

The first half of the FAA Basketball Tournament final between Sacred Heart Greenwich and St. Luke’s School was a back-and-forth matchup, with the lead changing hands several times. Yet the second half belonged to the Tigers and now, so does the FAA Tournament title.

Impressively building a double-digit lead in the third quarter, top-seeded Sacred Heart grabbed the momentum and never let it go, earning the victory it was aiming for all season.

Senior co-captain Payton Sfreddo scored a game-high 22 points, while freshman Lucianna Parrotta posted 19 points to power Sacred Heart to a convincing 68-43 win over third-seeded St. Luke’s in the championship game of the FAA Tournament before a large crowd today at Sacred Heart Greenwich. With the triumph, the Tigers stopped the Storm’s success streak at the FAA Tournament. New Canaan-based St. Luke’s had won the FAA Tournament title the past seven seasons.

“This is an awesome feeling,” said Sfreddo, a guard/forward. “To win it with this special of a team and this hardworking of a group is super special. St. Luke’s has won the past seven years, so to finally beat them and beat them twice in a season – that’s hard to do.”

During St. Luke’s run of seven straight FAA titles, it defeated Sacred Heart several times in the tournament’s semifinals, including the last two seasons. So, today’s triumph was indeed, rewarding, for the SHG.

“I’m so excited and so happy for our entire team and our coaches,” Sacred Heart senior point guard/co-captain Madison Hart said. “We put so much hard work in at practice throughout the season and for us to come together for this moment is so huge.”

Freshman guard/forward Emma Matthews scored 10 points off the bench, including three 3-pointers, while senior guard Victoria Hart added eight points with a 3-point shot for the Tigers, who are 11-0 against FAA opponents this season – including the FAA Tournament. The victors received points from seven players and contributions from everyone who took the court.

“What has made us such a good team this year is that anyone can come in at any time and contribute to the team,” SHG coach Ayo Hart said. “This was a true team win. So that’s been the character of our team.”

Junior point guard Camdyn Nelson scored a team-best 13 points for the Storm, who received nine points from Olivia White. Making their first appearance in the FAA tourney final since the 2018-2019 season, the Tigers were tied with the Storm at 16-16 following the first quarter.

A 3-pointer by Matthews gave SHG a 12-10 edge, then later in the quarter Madison Hart grabbed a rebound and scored, making it 16-12 in favor of the hosts. Junior shooting guard Emma Sollenne swished a 3-pointer from the left side and Nelson made a foul shot, evening the score at 16-16 for the St. Luke’s heading into the second quarter.

Nelson converted a 3-point shot to start the second quarter, making it 19-16, but a 6-0 spurt gave SHG the lead for good at 22-19. Sfreddo snared an offensive rebound and scored on a layup and Matthews continued her clutch play burying a 3-pointer from the left side, giving the home team a 22-19 advantage at the 4:11 mark of the second quarter.

“I just feel like my teammates did a good job of getting me open,” Matthews said. “I wouldn’t be able to take those shots if it wasn’t for my teammates – it’s all a team effort. For me to knock it down was rewarding my teammates at the other end.”

Victoria Hart hit a 3-point shot while being fouled, then made the ensuing free throw, upping the Tigers’ lead to 26-21 with 2:18 to go in the second quarter. White’s basket from the low post, brought the visitors within 27-25, but senior guard Olivia Leahy swished a baseline jumper from the left side, putting the Tigers on top, 29-29 at halftime.

Following a tight first half in which both teams had their moments, SHG outscored St. Luke’s, 21-9, in the third quarter to open a 50-33 advantage. Sfreddo scored seven points during the third quarter, including her squad’s first six points of the frame.

Emma Matthews of the Tigers varsity basketball team takes a foul shot in the first half of the FAA Tournament final against the visiting Storm of St. Luke’s School. Sacred Heart was victorious and earned the title. Photo by David Fierro

A layup off a steal and pair of free throws by Sfreddo raised the Tigers edge to 35-25 at the 6:27 mark of the third quarter.

“They came ready to play, but I think we came out super strong in the third quarter and kind of ran away with it from there,” Sfreddo noted.

The Tigers played stellar man-to-man defense throughout, mixed in with a little bit of a zone.

“Coach Hart was really getting us psyched up, she was telling us they are a second half team, we can’t let them come back,” Sfreddo said. “We knew that going out and we couldn’t let them get the momentum, because it could have been a completely different game.”

Parrotta drove to the basket hard, converted a layup while being fouled, then made the ensuing foul shot, increasing the hosts’ lead to 38-27 with 5:07 to go in the third quarter. Later in the period, Sfreddo a basket and Parrotta scored again, making it 45-30.

“Coming out, we weren’t really racing and doing what we usually do, but we were able to collect ourselves and do what we do best,” Parrotta said.

Sfreddo and Parrotta each scored 14 second-half points to spark the victors.

“The environment and everything pushed me to want to help my teammates,” Parrotta said. “Getting those baskets and hearing the crowd was definitely a great feeling. Our season was going so good and we knew had the potential do this. We put so much work into it.”

Madison Hart had three points, while aiding SHG in multiple facets of the game, junior forward Jadamarie Henry scored three points and Leahy had two points in the winning effort. Sollenne scored eight points for St. Luke’s.

“In the first half, we definitely weren’t playing our best game,” Madison Hart said. “I think we were a little rattled. So, at halftime, we told each other to settle down and play our game. In the second half we were a different team on defense especially. I think we did a good job of containing their best players.”

Said Ayo Hart: “I’m really proud of the girls. We knew St. Luke’s was going to be a battle. They are a very good team and well-coached. We just saw them beat GFA and at halftime it was a very close game.”

Overall, Sacred Heart sports a sparkling record of 18-5 (11-0 in the FAA).

“We definitely knew it was going to be hard coming into playoffs, we beat every team, so we knew there would be a target on our backs,” Matthews noted. “We knew every team wanted revenge. For us to come out and beat them by 20 – it feels good, but we did it in a way that it was sportsmanlike and we played the way we played all season and it showed the last two quarters.”

“We worked so hard for all season for this and for us to win it the way we did – it’s so rewarding,” Matthews added.

Said Sfreddo: “From weeks ago, we were ready for this game. The hard work we put into it, the energy, the intensity, I’ve never seen anything like it – I’m so proud of everyone. It’s like the cherry on top of an amazing season and we’re not done yet. We still have next week.”

Sfreddo was referring to the upcoming NEPSAC Class A Tournament, which begins on Wednesday. The Tigers are hoping to get one of the top three seeds in the tournament.

“I feel like we’re on top right now, but we still have work to do next week,” Sfreddo noted. “Hopefully, we’ll really do good in that tournament, hopefully we’ll get another trophy and get another banner in the gym.”

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