St. Joseph Lady Cadets fall late to Ridgefield, 61-50

In a battle of two of the top teams in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, it was Ridgefield High School that was able to pull away late and upend St. Joseph High School 61-50 Friday night.

"I liked the pace of this game," St. Joe's head coach Chris Lindwall said. "You have two of the top teams going at each other. Ridgefield is a really good defensive team and have one of the best players in the league with Rebecca (Lawrence). It came down to two teams going to war and playing well and hard. Can't ask for more than that."

After the Tigers came out strong, dominated play early and built an eight-point lead twice in the first half, it was the Lady Cadets that fired back and to end the first half trailing by one, 29-28 and held a four-point lead 4:11 left in the third quarter.

However the defense by Ridgefield took over and helped pace the Tigers the rest of the way.

"I told the girls that these are the games you practice for and prepare for," Ridgefield head coach Thomas DiMarzo said. "We prepared and the girls had confidence in the game plan and we executed it. We scouted them and we executed our game plan. Most importantly the girls had faith in what we were trying to do and it's the first time that they did have faith in it. You can see the result. They played really tough tonight."

The combination of Sharnick and Shannon O'Mara led the way for St. Joseph. Sharnick led all scorers with 19 points, while O'Mara tallied four three-pointers en route to 14 points. Jackie Jozefick was on her way to another stellar outing, as she had seven points, but had to leave the game in the second quarter with an injury and didn't return.

Cailtlin Sharnick pitched in with five points and Maite Gritsko added four points.

Once again, Lawrence paced the Tigers, netting a team-high 18 points. Not to be outdone was Jessica Camarda, who drained all four of her field goals via the three-point line and finished with 16 points. Carly Mercede added 13 points and Elizabeth Middlebrook finished with eight points.

With 2:53 to play in the opening quarter, Middlebrook was fouled and hit both free throws. That started a 9-0 run that saw the Tigers' lead expand to 18-9 with 1:37 left in the quarter. Lawrence connected on two jumpers and Meaghan O'Hara hit the wide open three-pointer during the run.

Although down, St. Joe's came storming back to end the first half and went on a 7-2 run to close the first half. A layup by Bridget Sharnick with 2:17 left in the half got things rolling. Then two foul shots by Jozefick and a deep three-pointer by O'Meara with 14.1 seconds to play cut the deficit to 29-28.

"We had a lot of fouls in the first half and went through a little adversity, but we also talk about what we can control," DiMarzo said. "We can't control refs and can't control the shots not falling, but we were able to control our defense and played smart. We really did a good job sharing the ball."

The Lady Cadets and Tigers exchanged buckets to start the second half, but three-pointers by Bridget and Caitlin Sharnick, as well as two foul shots by Bridget Sharnick pushed the St. Joe's lead to 40-36.

"I give credit to my players because they wanted to do this for Jackie," Lindwall said. "That was their mindset and focus at halftime. That's the kind of team I have. They care about each other and support each other. They came out and battled. Jackie is an important part of what we do and I couldn't be more proud of my kids for all the things they did tonight to try and overcome obstacles."

After another three-ball by O'Meara, Camarda joined in with a three-pointer of her own with 47 seconds left in the third to give RHS a 44-42 lead, a lead they wouldn't give up the rest of the game.

Both teams had the pleasure of playing in front of a large crowd in the St. Joseph High School gymnasium and both head coaches couldn't be more thrilled with the atmosphere.

"It was great to play today," Lindwall said. "It's actually a credit to the kids and their ability. People want to come out and support them and see them. A lot of games were last night, so we were kind of the game tonight and that helps. It's a credit to both teams and the players. When all is said and done, it's all about them."

With the loss, the Lady Cadets fell to 9-2 on the season, while the Tigers improved to the same 9-2 record.