NEW CANAAN -- A quarter of the regular season is already in the books and the early returns are all positive for the Greenwich High School girls basketball team.
The Cardinals, who entered their 2013-14 season intent on earning a berth in both the state and conference tournaments, are right on pace to meet their goals.
Greenwich continued to build on the success it achieved last year when it qualified for the Class LL Tournament for the first time in more than a decade, as it soundly defeated host New Canaan, 42-24, Friday in the first round of the Tony LaVista Tournament. The Cardinals (4-1), who beat New Canaan for the tournament title a year ago, will play Darien in Monday's 3 p.m. final at New Canaan High School. The Blue Wave advanced to the championship game by beating Staples in the tournament's other opening round matchup Friday.
Junior forward Jamie Kockenmeister scored eight of her team-high 10 points in the second half for Greenwich, which built a 21-point halftime lead, then substituted freely throughout the second half.
"We had real even scoring across the board in the first half," Kockenmeister said. "Everyone was contributing, which was really helpful to us getting that big lead."
Junior guard Alexa Moses added eight points with two 3-pointers, while junior Leigh Galletta and sophomore Caroline Beneville contributed six points apiece for the Cardinals, who led 14-2 after the first quarter and 27-6 at the half. As was the case when Greenwich upended New Canaan 65-28 last week, the Cardinals clamped down defensively, making the Rams work especially hard for their shots.
"We worked a lot on our press leading up to this game and focused on getting those turnovers in the backcourt," said Galletta, a point guard. "Today, we were aggressive in our man-to-man defense and zone."
The Rams (0-5) received a game-high 14 points from junior guard Elizabeth Miller.
"The first half we were not playing our game, but the second half we turned things around a bit and were a little more competitive," New Canaan coach Kim Palmer said. "We started really sluggish today, they got a big lead on us and we weren't able to bounce back."
After Rams junior forward Devin Selvala made the game's first basketball off a putback, the Cardinals promptly scored 19 unanswered points and were never threatened. A 3-pointer from the right side from Beneville gave GHS a 7-2 lead 2 minutes, 41 seconds into the opening quarter and Galletta's fastbreak layup off a pass from Beneville put the Rams in a 14-2 hole heading into the second stanza. Moses buried a shot from beyond the arc and senior guard Rebecca DeCarlo converted a layup to cap the Cards' big run.
Campbell Armstrong's 3-pointer from the corner stopped Greenwich's spurt, but the visitors ended the half by scoring eight of the next nine points -- a run initiated by a basket from DeCarlo. In the previous game between the two teams, Greenwich outscored New Canaan 40-4 from the end of the first quarter into the third.
"We started off the game executing our game plan early, looking to push the ball and put pressure on their guards," GHS coach Chrys Hernandez said. "After halftime we kind of got too comfortable, which is something we have to work on. Overall, we had a good defensive effort."
To the Rams' credit, they made a representative showing in the second half after being dominated the first two quarters. Armstrong, a guard, scored nine points during the third quarter for New Canaan, which closed to within 31-17. The Cardinals, who played a 2-3 zone, man-to-man and applied some full court pressure scored nine straight points to start the fourth quarter.
"We came out strong, had a little bit of a letdown in the third quarter, but in the end we played strong," Cardinals sophomore 6-foot-3 center Abbie Wolf said. "Throughout the game, we moved the ball well and everyone was looking for each other and doing their job."
Wolf scored five points and was a presence in the paint defensively for Greenwich, which was coming off a loss against Danbury on Friday.
"We're a much better team than what we showed in the first half," Palmer said. "Our kids are beginning to understand our offense a bit better."
The Cardinals, meanwhile, believe they're primed to continue their streak of success.
"I definitely think we can build off this win and keep it going," Kockenmeister said. "Everyone has a lot of confidence in each other."
Said Wolf: "Coming out of this game, I feel confident going into game Monday to defend our title."
GREENWICH 14 13 4 11 -- 42
NEW CANAAN 2 4 11 7 -- 24
Records: Greenwich 4-1; New Canaan 0-5.
GREENWICH (42): Abbie Wolf 2 1-2 5; Alexa Moses 3 0-0 8; Jamie Kockenmeister 3 4-4 10; Leigh Galletta 3 0-0 6; Caroline Beneville 2 0-0 6; Rebecca DeCarlo 2 0-0 4; Jayla Faison 1 0-0 2; Emily Anderson 0 1-2 1; Raquel Ireifej 0 0-0 0; Colleen Bennett 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 6-8 42.
NEW CANAAN (24): Devin Selvala 1 2-2 4; Campbell Armstrong 2 0-0 6; Elizabeth Miller 4 5-6 14; Tess Decker 0 0-0 0; Olivia Hunsinger 0 0-0 0; Meghan Selvaggi 0 0-0 0; Lindsay Seelert 0 0-0 0. Totals: 7 7-8 24.
3-pointers: G -- Moses 2, Beneville 2; NC -- Armstrong 2, Miller.