Kockenmeister's free throws lift Greenwich girls over Warde
FAIRFIELD -- During a frantic fourth quarter that had two of the best girls basketball teams in the FCIAC battle back and forth, it was the calming presence of one senior that proved to be the biggest difference.
Greenwich senior guard Jamie Kockenmeister stepped to the free line for a one-and-one opportunity with 7.1 seconds left in a tied game and all the pressure on her shoulders.
Kockenmeister didn't hesitate during the tense moment and calmly sank both free throws to lift the Cardinals to an impressive 49-47 victory over the previously unbeaten Mustangs.
"We always practice a lot of foul shots," said Kockenmeister, who finished with 14 points, eight steals and seven rebounds. "I just wanted to get in a zone and stay calm. I just wanted to comfort myself and relax."
"She carried the play for them," said Warde coach Dave Danko of Kockenmeister. "She played really well."
Warde (12-1) was unable to get a shot off on its final possession.
"It's the best win of the year for us," said Kockenmeister. "To come in here against a top-rated, undefeated team is great. It doesn't get any better. It gives us a lot of confidence."
Greenwich coach Chrys Hernandez was one of the few relaxed spectators when her player went to the line in the final seconds.
"I wasn't nervous," said Hernandez. "She's our best free-throw shooter and her leadership skills are amazing. I'm really impressed with how we kept our composure the entire game. We stayed focused the entire game."
The Cardinals also benefitted from the return of junior guard Caroline Beneville, who buried four 3-pointers during two big runs in both halves and finished with a team-high 15 points. Beneville had been out since Dec. 19 with a broken nose and a cold.
"She's our best shooter," said Hernandez of Beneville. "It was great for us to have her back."
Greenwich also received another big effort from center Abbie Wolf, who finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
As good of a win as it was for Greenwich, Warde missed a chance to keep its streak alive despite battling some key injuries. Senior guard Sarah Cotto missed the game with an ankle injury. Sophomore starter Iliana Krasniqi suffered an ankle injury during the first quarter Thursday night and missed the rest of the game.
Despite the shuffling lineup Warde fought back with tenacious play from guards Daja Polk (nine points), Lejla Markovic (11 points) and Jacqui Lanese (11 points).
The Mustangs had won 11 of its games by more than 10 points, so being down by nine early in the fourth quarter was a rare setting.
Warde, however, responded with an 8-0 run to cut the Cardinals' lead to 43-42 with 3:18 left to play in the game. Markovic continued to make big plays down the stretch and her free throw with 30 seconds left gave Warde a 47-45 lead.
Alexa Moses then scored her only points of the game on a layup for Greenwich to tie the score with 20 seconds left and set up the win for the Cardinals.
"They battled the entire game," said Danko. "We learn from this. It's only a January game. It's OK. We can compete and will take a lot of positives from this loss."
Leigh Galletta 3 0-2 6 Colleen Bennett 0 1-2 1 Alexa Moses 1 0-0 2 Emily Anderson 0 1-2 1 Abbie Wolf 5 0-0 10 Emma Banker 0 0-0 0 Jamie Kockenmeister 5 4-5 14 Jayla Faison 0 0-0 0 Caroline Beneville 5 1-2 15. Totals: 19 7-13 49
GREENWICH 15 10 12 12--49
WARDE 15 10 5 17--47
3-pointers: G--Beneville 4. W--Lanese 3.