St. Joseph basketball advances to semis by stunning Whalers 67-63

Using motivation from last year's CIAC class M state tournament run, the No. 11 seeded St. Joseph High School girls basketball team broke away from third-seed New London High School midway through the third quarter and stunned the Whalers 67-63 Tuesday night in New London.

"This feels great," SJHS junior Jackie Jozefick said. "Last year we lost in quarters and we wanted to come back and get the chance to play against everybody else that we weren't able to play last year. I was frustrated at points tonight, but I am just happy to be here. We did everything that we could to beat New London and it worked. I couldn't be happier for the team now."

With the victory, the Cadets punched their ticket to the final four of the class M tournament and will play No. 10 seeded Enfield High School Monday night for the chance to compete for the class M championship to be held at the Mohegan Sun arena.

For SJHS head coach Chris Lindwall, this win was especially sweet. Not only did the Cadets put last year's loss to Morgan in the rear-view mirror, but tonight's victory came 20 years to the day that he won a championship with Joel Barlow High School.

"This feels great right now," Lindwall said. "I am so happy for these guys right now. We walked out of Morgan's gym last year and were really upset. Without question, this team has worked so hard the last two weeks of practice and I can't be prouder of this group. This game was a blessing."

Leading the way for the Cadets was Bridget Sharnick, who finished with a team-high 32 points.

"This is just an amazing feeling," Sharnick said. "Last year we had a hard loss in the quarterfinals, so we tried to look past that and trained to get to the Sun. This win feels good. We knew we had keep playing hard and keep getting those open looks. The first quarter we weren't moving as much on offense as we should, so we wanted to get those open looks, move the ball and keep playing really hard."

In addition to Sharnick, Jozefick added 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, while Shannon O'Meara contributed with 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Ana DoCarmo added four assists and two steals, while Cailtin Sharnick added eight rebounds and six assists.

For New London, Jada Lucas led the team with 17 points, while Deanna McCarvell chipped in with 15 points. Charee Osborne added 13 point. India Pagan finished with 12 points.

With the Whalers clinging to a 32-31 halftime lead, the Cadets passed the ball efficiently and was able to find the open player. With 5:47 to play in the third and St. Joe's trailing by one, Bridget Sharnick hit the putback off the offensive rebound to give her team the 37-36 lead.

Bridget Sharnick did one better a minute later, when she drained the three-pointer. With 3:57 to play, St. Joe's finished the quick 7-0 run when Sharnick fed O'Meara with the nice dish and O'Meara sank the easy layup for the 42-36 lead.

"We got a little more comfortable against their defense," said Lindwall. "They went to the man and we ran a couple of things and got some good looks. Jackie and Bridget finished some shots down low and New London got in foul trouble. We kept on attacking them with a couple of things and it made all the difference.

The Cadets put the game out of reach in the waning moments of the third, when the bank was open as Sharnick hit the three-pointer from the top of the key to end the scoring for the quarter and give St. Joe's the 48-41 lead.

After Bridget Sharnick started the fourth with a layup under the basket, DoCarmo stepped back and hit the baseline three-pointer with 4:40 to play to silence the New London crowd and give the Cadets the 53-42 lead.

"Defensively we took off the pressure and went with our bread and butter, which is our man," Lindwall said. "Caitlin [Sharnick] and Maite [Gritsko] did a great job. Caitlin was sitting in the middle and jamming the middle. Ana DoCarmo was also outstanding for us. She played 32 minutes and only had one turnover. When everybody does the little things, good things happen."