TRUMBULL — Clinging to its FCIAC playoff hopes, host St. Joseph nearly dug itself out of a 17-point second-half deficit, twice pulling to within five, before falling 47-38 to Ridgefield on Friday night.
St. Joseph fell to 8-10 overall (7-7 in FCIAC play), and Ridgefield improved to 10-8 (9-5).
The Cadets, who trailed 27-13 at the half and 34-17 early in the third quarter, got it to an 11-point deficit at 38-27 heading to the fourth.
They got it to a single-digit differential with 4:55 remaining, when Dennaye Hinds finished down low after taking a lob pass from Kaitlin Capobianco. That made the score 39-31.
Emma Elrod hit a pair of foul shots with 4:16 left, bringing the score to 39-33.
The Cadets were stuck on 33 for two and a half minutes, but limited the Tigers to a free throw in that time. Elrod’s in-close hoop brought the Cadets to within 40-35 with 1:39 left.
Ridgefield foul shots padded the lead, before Elrod was fouled attempting a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left. Elrod made all three shots to make it 43-38, but the Tigers closed things out at the charity stripe.
Elrod scored all of her 11 points in the second half, with nine of them coming in the fourth quarter, seven on as many free throw attempts. She also pulled down 10 rebounds.
Veronica Lubas scored 10. Hinds contributed six, to go along with a dozen rebounds. Kate Rudini dropped in four and had five assists. Kathryn Zito added three points on a shot from downtown.
Rahmia Johnston and Rudini both came away with a trio of steals.
Although the Cadets saw the Tigers seize their biggest lead in the third quarter, the game may have been lost in the first half.
Ridgefield jumped out to a 9-0 lead, only to see the Cadets claw back and tie the score. It was 14-11 Tigers after one quarter of play.
The Cadets saw their counterparts start the second stanza on an 8-0 but this time couldn’t replicate Ridgefield’s run. In fact, the Cadets were held without a second-quarter field goal. Only a pair of free throws by Johnston averted the stanza shutout.
“We didn’t possess the ball well in the second quarter. We had a lot of missed opportunities today,” St. Joseph coach Chris Lindwall said. “We didn’t come out ready to play.
“We did everything we could to prepare for the game,” said Lindwall, adding that his teams scouting report of the Tigers proved to be true to form.
But the Cadets couldn’t gain any early-contest traction.
Credit Ridgefield’s defense which certainly was a contributing factor, but so to was St. Joseph’s shooting and turnover woes.
“They came and they outplayed us. We made too many sloppy mistakes early in the game,” Lindwall said.
St. Joe’s fought back and made a game of it behind what Lindwall said was a more energized second-half effort.
“That’s our M.O. We come back against everybody. We have that run where we give up 14 or 15 points and we’ve got to fight our way back,” Lindwall added.
He said his team’s chances of qualifying for the FCIAC tourney at this point, with two games to play and other teams holding tiebreakers over the Cadets, were slim.
Hard-fought, close-outcome setbacks have been a trend for the Cadets this winter. They lost by four points to Fairfield Ludlowe after a one-point setback to Trumbull earlier in the week.
Danbury and Staples of Westport downed the Cadets by three and four points, respectively, and the Cadets lost to Stamford by nine.
“That’s the disappointing part, because the kids work really hard and they’ve worked extremely hard in practice,” Lindwall said.
St. Joseph finishes up with Brien McMahon and New Canaan on Feb. 11 and 13, as they get ready for the state tournament.
“Hopefully we can get these two wins and get some momentum going into states,” Lindwall said.