Girls basketball: Top-seeded Notre Dame too much for St. Joseph

FAIRFIELD — For a No. 16 seed to upend a No. 1 seed a lot of things must go right.

St. Joseph High head coach Chris Lindwall’s Cadets knew taking on top-seeded Notre Dame at the Lancers’ cozy on-campus Sister Marion Reilly Memorial Gymnasium would be no easy task.

“My girls played with such heart,” Lindwall said of the effort put in by his 10-11 squad during Notre Dame’s 59-38 Class L first-round victory. “We got it to six in the second quarter, and we were in position to go at them, then we go offer (from the floor) the rest of the period).

“We’d make a run, and then as expected of a number one team, they would come back at us. We missed so many opportunities early and a 12-0 hole is deep to climb out of. We had some looks (at the basket), but didn’t score for four minutes.

“We missed too many layups and free throws (11 for 25). We had to slow their transition game and we did that.

“Eric (DeMarco) does a great job, and he has a young team too. They can shoot, dribble drive and rebound. I thought we did a good job overall on defense, but then they took some easy drives to the basket at key spots.”

Notre Dame (21-1) will host No. 9 Bristol Eastern (15-7) in the quarterfinals on Monday. Those Lancers defeated No. 8 Naugatuck, 69-45, in their second-round game.

Aizhanique Mayo scored 19 points and Yamani McCollough tacked on 16 to lead Notre Dame.

The Lancers held leads of 15-4, 31-15 and 42-28 at the breaks.

St. Joseph was led offensively by Emma Elrod (10 points), Kaitlin Capobianco (8 points) and Kate Rudini (5 points). Rahmia Johnston and Dennaye Hinds split eight markers.

The Cadets scored the first five points after the half to get within 31-20, as they looked to build upon momentum gained in the second period.

“We talked at the half about making some small adjustments to all the defenses they were throwing at us,” Lindwall said. “We go on that run, they call a timeout, and we miss four of the next five times we have the ball.”

ND’s Erin Harris scored off a dribble drive, and then McCollough assisted on buckets by Kayla Titus on the baseline and Brianna Perez on the block.

McCollough’s explosive drive made it 37-23.

St Joe refused to fold. Elrod hit two free throws, Rudini fought through traffic for a basket, and Hinds scored a put-back hoop to give the Cadets a 13-11 lead for the stanza — but ND still led by 14 with eight minutes to go.

It was 46-28 when Capobianco scored five consecutive points for St Joe, one bucket coming on a full-court outlet pass from Elrod.

The Lancers’ Krystalee Fernandez knocked down a key 3-pointer from the corner at the five-minute mark and Notre Dame outscored St Joe 10-5 down the stretch.

“Every year this is the hardest part — saying goodbye,” Lindwall said. “This is a great group of kids. This is a special group. I will miss them."

ST. JOSEPH (11-11)

Kathryn Zito 1 0-1 2 Katherine Rudini 1 3-4 5 Kaitlin Capobianco 3 2-4 8 McKenna Hedman 1 0-0 3 Rahmia Johnston 1 2-6 4 Dennaye Hinds 2 0-2 4 Maddie Johnson 0 2-2 2 Emma Elrod 4 2-3 10. Totals: 13 11-22 38.


Ciara Brown 2 0-1 4 Yamani McCullough 4 6-11 16 Erin Harris 1 0-0 3 Aizhanique Mayo 8 3-3 19 Krystalee Fernandez 3 3-4 9 Kayla Tilus 1 1-2 3 Taylor Gibbs 2 0-0 4 Brianna Perez 1 0-0 2. Totals: 22 13-21 59.

ST. JOSEPH       4 11 13 10—38

ND-FAIRFIELD   15 16 11 17—59

3-pointers: SJ—Hedman; NDF—McCullough 2, Harris.