Unable to solve the Cardinals' aggressive full-court press, the turnovers mounted for Harding as the quarter progressed. By the time opening stanza concluded, the host Cardinals built a commanding 19-point lead and put it on cruise control from there.
Senior guard Caroline Barrett scored a game-high 14 points and junior backcourt mate Rebecca DeCarlo added eight points in Greenwich's convincing 52-35 victory. Winners of six out of their last nine games, the Cardinals upped their record to 7-8, leaving them just one triumph shy of qualifying for the CIAC Class LL Tournament.
Greenwich, which hasn't made the state tournament in quite some time, came out like a team determined to leave nothing to chance.
"Before we went out on the court, in the huddle we said we have to go get it in the first two minutes," said Barrett, a quad-captain. "We know we can't go into any games cocky. Coach says we're playing for our season."
Creating numerous turnovers with their press, the Cardinals seized a 19-0 first-quarter lead. Harding's first basket didn't come until Shemeka Thompson scored on a putback with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the opening quarter.
"We wanted to force a lot of turnovers with our press and it worked for us," GHS second-year coach Chrys Hernandez said. "We focused more on our halfcourt defense the rest of the game."
Barrett had seven points during the first quarter while sophomore forward Jamie Kockenmeister (seven points), junior guard Alexa Moses (six points) and sophomore guard Leigh Galletta (seven points) each had four. Galletta went backdoor for a layup, Barrett swished a 3-pointer, Moses hit a jumper and Kockenmeister scored in transition, making it a 19-0 game with 1:30 remaining in the first quarter.
"Our press really helps us a lot in getting steals and quick layups," DeCarlo said. "We are always on our toes when we press and we seem to be quicker to the ball."
The Cardinals substituted freely toward the end of the first quarter and settled into a 2-3 zone and halfcourt man-to-man the final three quarters. Thompson scored 12 points, while guard Brae Stewart had 11, including a 3-pointer for Harding (1-14), which showed some life offensively after the opening quarter.
"We are a young team, but at least we are actually competing now," Harding coach Judith Morisset said. "That's a start for our program. Teams don't think they can go out there against us and automatically get a win."
Friday marked the first time freshman 6-foot center Abbie Wolf saw significant minutes since spraining her ankle three weeks ago. Wolf, one of the team's leading scorers before she was sidelined, came off the bench the last two minutes of each quarter.
"After an injury like that, you don't want her to get injured again, so we have to watch her minutes," Hernandez said.
The Cards warmed up wearing pink T-shirts to raise awareness for breast cancer.
"It's something that's close to our team's heart, so it was nice to grab a win on this night," Barrett said.
Grabbing one more win would put Barrett in the state tournament for the first time in her four years on the squad.
"One more win, I never thought I'd say that," Barrett said. "We're hoping to get a few more and finish the season strong going into the playoffs."
Greenwich will play for victory No. 8 against struggling Bridgeport Central on Tuesday.
"Our next game is our biggest game and we have to play extra hard, we can't take anything for granted," Kockenmeister said. "As the season has progressed, we're getting better and better and it's showing."
HARDING 2 12 7 14 -- 35
GREENWICH 21 9 13 9 -- 52
Brae Stewart 5 0-0 11; Monica Selitte 0 0-0 0; Lauderly Francois 3 0-0 7; Shemeca Thompson 4 4-8 12; Theresa Rose 1 1-2 3; Sydney Downer 1 0-0 2; ZeQueery Edwards 0 0-0 0; Jamera Buster 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 5-10 35.
Caroline Barrett 5 2-2 14; Jamie Kockenmeister 3 1-2 7; Rebecca DeCarlo 4 0-0 8; Leigh Galletta 3 1-1 7; Brittany Rodriguez 0 0-0 0; Abbie Wolf 1 0-0 2; Alexa Moses 3 0-0 6; Rebecca Kural 0 0-0 0; Caroline Beneville 2 0-0 4; Daniela Hernandez 1 0-0 2; Colleen Bennett 1 0-0 2; Maureen Tracy 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 4-5 52. 3-pointers: H -- Stewart, Francois; G -- Barrett 2.