Sacred Heart Academy girls basketball holds off St. Joseph for Class MM title

UNCASVILLE — Girls basketball fans were waiting all season to see Sacred Heart Academy and St. Joseph play in the CIAC Class MM state championship game and when the two finally squared off Sunday, it did not disappoint.

Following a furious comeback from down 16 points in the third quarter, St. Joseph’s shot at the buzzer hit off the side of the rim, giving SHA a 52-50 win and its first state title since 1993.

“We accomplished what we have been dreaming of the last three years and I am so happy we got to do this,” SHA senior Rosa Rizzitelli said. “It feels amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s the best feeling in the whole world.”

It is the third state title for the Sharks, who won titles in 1992 and 1993, then lost in 1994.

The Sharks, ranked third in the GameTimeCT poll, finish the season 26-1.

SHA, the SCC champion, jumped on the FCIAC champion Cadets early, building up a lead in the second quarter and leading 35-22 at halftime.

SHA would increase that lead to 16 points with 5:38 left in the third quarter before the Cadets began chipping away.

St. Joseph, the No. 6 team in the GameTimeCT poll, cut the lead to six after three quarters, eventually tying it 48-48 with 2:55 left on a free throw by Kayleigh Carson.

“I could not be prouder but that’s what you get when you have eight seniors, they just keep fighting and fighting,” St. Joseph coach Chris Lindwall said. “They showed me so much the second half. We switched to the 1-3-1 and they struggled with it. They kept missing shots and we kept making plays. We started off the game 3-12 from the free throw line and missed some bunnies. That’s the hard part that we had to keep chasing and chasing.”

St. Joseph was 16-32 from the free throw line.

After St. Joseph tied the game at 48, Sydney Rossacci hit a 3-pointer from the corner, putting SHA back up by three.

“That was amazing. That got me so hyped when she hit that,” Rizzitelli said. “Our depth is so strong and we know we can trust everyone on the bench. The points show it, we all contribute. It’s not just one player or two. The most important thing for our team is that everyone contributes.”

Rizzitelli scored a game-high 19 points with Lauren Thompson adding 11.

After a missed SHA free throw, St. Joseph advanced the ball and Carson fed Kate Rudini on the wing but her contested shot at the buzzer hit the side of the rim, setting off the Sharks celebration.

“St. Joe’s is an excellent team and they got us on the ropes a bit with that 1-3-1 but luckily we have seniors who are composed and figured out how to make enough plays to beat a very talented St. Joe’s team,” SHA coach Jason Kirck said. “Sydney’s shot was the shot of the year. To have the courage to get that shot up in that situation and nail it tells you everything you need to know about Sydney Rossacci. She’s an absolute warrior and I’m going to miss her.”

Kirck, whose program was surrounded by controversy after a 92-4 win over Lyman Hall in January, closed the season winning its final 20 games.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Rosa Rizzitelli, Sacred Heart Academy: Rizzitelli finished with a double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds. She also spent a good amount of time on floor hustling after loose balls all night.

QUOTABLE

“Rosa competes like you wouldn’t believe. In practice she competes and when we go after it in drills and different scrimmages and stuff, she’s the ultimate competitor.”

Sericson@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports

SACRED HEART ACADEMY 52, ST. JOSEPH 50

ST. JOSEPH 13 9 15 13

SACRED HEART ACADEMY 17 18 8 9

ST. JOSEPH: Dennaye Hinds 2 0 0-5 4, Katherine Rudini 1 0 5-7 7, Kayleigh Carson 2 1 5-9 10, Erika Stephens 1 1 0-0 3, Kirsten Rodriguez 6 0 4-6 16, Isabelle Casucci 4 0 2-5 10.

SACRED HEART ACADEMY: Emma Kirk 1 0 2-4 4, Carina Ciampi 2 0 5-5 9, Gianna Pye 1 0 0-0 2, Rosa Rizzitelli 7 3 2-2 19, Sydney Rossacci 1 1 2-4 5, Lauren Thompson 4 3 0-0 11, Morgan Miller 1 0 0-0 2