Coach sets bar high

The St. Joseph High girls basketball team has set a high goal, as the Cadets begin the second half of their season, and coach Rich Lindwall believes the target is reachable.

“We’ve been in a lull and we have to figure out a way to get better,” Lindwall said of the Cadets’ 2-8 record. “Our goal is to go 8-2 in the second half and get to 500.

“This is an adjustment for me as a coach and for the players as well. We’ve never had this record. Our goal is the same as our t-shirt: ‘On a mission to build a tradition.’”

Without senior starters Jenn Vasquez and Lauren Della Vecchia, St. Joseph took its measure of Harding of Bridgeport with a 44-26 victory over the Presidents on Friday night.

“Jenn has been out four games since she got tangled up against Darien and hyperextended her elbow,” Lindwall said of the team’s leading scorer. “She’s looking to get full range of motion back, and they said it should be four-to-six weeks.

“Lauren (the starting point guard) has been playing with a strained MCL and we’re going to shut her down for five or six days.”

Mairead Donahue, a 6-1 junior forward, scored 14 points to lead eight Cadets into the scorebook.

St. Joseph used a strong defensive stance in the third quarter to stretch its’ seven-point halftime lead to 27-13.

Erin Johnson, a 6-2 senior center, scored off an assist from senior guard Ana DoCarmo to break a 4-4 tie and start an 8-0 run.

Donahue and Johnson were especially adept at taking away entry passes, and a Johnson steal led to a DoCarmo run out basket.

Lauren Pitney scored off a baseline jumper before Johnson’s high-low-pass found Donahue free underneath with 3:16 left in the opening period.

Johnson had a block to stop a Harding fastbreak, and DoCarmo turned that point-saver into a basket down the other end.

St. Joseph, which shot 7-for-10 from the floor in the period and scored six points off five forced turnovers, took a 14-6 lead into the second quarter.

“We’ve been playing well defensively,” Lindwall said. “The challenge is to play a much better offense. We’ve been playing with three bigs for so long, and now we’re going back to a conventional offense. It’s hard work.”

Harding played much better defense in the second period, and the Cadets were limited to 2-of-10 shooting, 0-for-3 from beyond the arc.

St. Joseph used good ball movement before sophomore Shannon O’Meara made a jumper off a feed from classmate Bridget Sharnick at 5:05 to halt a 5-0 Harding mini-run.

Sophomore Caitlin Sharnick battled for a defensive board, and down the other end, Donahue was rewarded for a rebound with two made free throws and an 18-11 lead.

Junior guard Tara Whiting beat a Harding trap and got the ball to DoCarmo, who fed senior guard Chloe Dudzinski for a 10-footer.

St. Joseph led 20-13 at the half.

Pitney followed her own shot and scored on a putback to end a three-minute scoreless skein by both teams to open the third quarter.

Dudzinski’s steal led to DoCarmo free throw, and after Johnson’s third blocked shot, Donahue added a freebie for a 24-13 lead.

Sophomore Maite Gritsko had an offense board and reset the offense. Donahue used the rim to block off a defender, and her reverse layup led to a foul, a three-point play, and a 27-13 lead after three periods.

Sophomore Juliana Farmer answered a Harding 3-pointer with a trey of her own, after a kickout pass from Johnson.

DoCarmo scored in transition and Donahue came off setting a screen to take Whiting’s inbounds pass for a bucket and a 34-18 lead with five minutes remaining.

Sophomore Katie Gardella scored six of the next eight Cadet baskets, with Whiting earning a pair of assists.

Farmer completed the scoring with a breakaway hoop.

“Our seniors have done a fantastic job, they are good leaders,” Lindwall said. “The kids are mentally focused and I’m proud of hard they are working in practice.”