It took the St. Joseph girls basketball team almost half a quarter to shake the rust off its offense. The Cadets couldn’t wait to get back on the court after losing to Morgan of Clinton in the Class L quarterfinals last season, so it was natural for them to be feeling a little overanxious.

Defensively, St. Joseph was already in midseason form. The Cadets held New Canaan to just one two-point field goal with solid interior defense and used a balanced offense led by senior captains Bridget and Caitlin Sharnick to post a thorough 56-17 victory at Vito Montelli Gym in the season-opener for both teams on Dec. 10.

The Sharnick twins combined for 25 points and anchored a defense that held the Rams to single digits in all four quarters, never allowing the Rams to touch the ball in the paint.

St. Joseph led 16-5 at the end of the first quarter before increasing its advantage to 23-8 midway through the second on seven straight points by Bridget Sharnick.

The massive deficit forced New Canaan to start firing from long range, and that didn’t work either.

The Rams, who return seven players from a team that went 3-17 last season, went 4-for-24 on 3-pointers and connected on just five of 44 shots from the floor. The Cadets also forced 18 turnovers, including five each in the first and second quarters.

“Our defense was excellent, and that’s been a point of emphasis from the beginning,” head coach Chris Lindwall said. “We walked out of Morgan’s gym last year and we said, ‘this is the team we’re going to go into next year with.’

“Our focus was going to be on the defensive side of the ball.  We worked on all of those things in the offseason, footwork, close-outs and box-outs, and all that hard work really showed through tonight.”

St. Joseph is expecting big things this season, returning nearly intact after finishing 15-8 overall and three wins shy of a Class M state title last year.

The Cadets definitely got off to a great start. Bridget Sharnick led the way offensively with 15 points, four rebounds and two assists.

Caitlin Sharnick also hit double figures with 10 points, including two 3-pointers. She also had four rebounds and two assists.

Six-foot senior forward Jackie Jozefick led St. Joseph on the glass with eight rebounds and two blocks to go along with six points.

Senior guard Shannon O’Meara nailed three 3-pointers, all of which came in the third quarter to help the Cadets take a 48-11 lead.

“It’s going to be a special season, and I think these girls deserve it,” Lindwall said. “We’ve done a lot of planning. We’ve done a lot of work on the little things, and it’s a tribute to them.

“This is my fourth year, and this is what we’ve talked about, having these kids in my system and trying to do certain things the way we want them done for four years, and that’s what we’ve got.”

The Cadets were quarterbacked offensively by senior point guard Ana DoCarmo, who had four assists and ran the offense like an assistant coach on the floor.

Senior Tess Lockwood (three rebounds) was equally effective when DoCarmo was on the bench. Even in that position, DoCarmo was still trying to steer her team in the right direction.

“Ana and Tess do a great job at the point, and that’s made a huge difference,” Lindwall said. “I don’t have to call anything. Ana really showed me a lot tonight. She’s very focused on what she needs to do, and that’s all I can ask of her.”

The large second-half lead allowed Lindwall to get a good, long look at some of his younger or more inexperienced players, and they didn’t disappoint either.

Senior Maite Gritsko played some strong early minutes, aiding in the defensive effort with four steals, four rebounds and two assists.

Senior Emily Robertson scored eight points off the bench, including two 3-pointers and junior forward Shannon Healy pulled down six rebounds to go along with two points and one assist.

Senior Juliana Farmer also hit a 3-pointer and pulled down two rebounds.

“I planned on taking my starting group out four minutes into the third quarter and it ended up being five minutes, and then we ended up taking it to the next level,” Lindwall said.

“The nice thing is the energy level stayed the same. New Canaan is a young team, but I’m really, really proud of my kids tonight.”

Sophomore Campbell Armstrong led New Canaan with two 3-pointers and seven rebounds off the bench. Elizabeth Miller also had six points while Marina Braccio collected five rebounds and two assists.

Roundup

Shannon O’Meara made five 3-pointers to lead the Cadets to a 68-19 win over Bridgeport Central on Dec. 12.

O’Meara finished with 22 points, followed by Jackie Jozefick’s 11, Bridget Sharnick with nine, Maite Gritsko six and Caitlin Sharnik and Julie Farmer with five points each.

Ana DoCarmo had eight assists and four steals. Jozefick had 12 rebounds and four blocks.

Alexin Myers and Tajzhane Freeman led the Hilltoppers.