St. Joseph basketball going to the Sun with semifinal victory
The chase is over for the St. Joseph High School girls basketball team.
After a dominating performance in the semifinals against No. 10 seeded Enfield High School, the No. 11 seeded Cadets will be running to the Mohegan Sun Arena this weekend for the CIAC class M championship after beating the Raiders 61-39.
"It was very emotional," SJHS head coach Chris Lindwall said. "It's for these kids because they've worked so hard. It's about them and the program. It's the program's first trip since 1979 and we've been building and building. It's my fourth year here, so it's all about getting these guys through the system and what we want to do and how we want to do it."
With the victory, the Cadets will play for the championship game for the first time since the 1979 season and will compete against No. 4 seeded Cromwell.
In a game where the Cadets didn't make a two-point shot in the first half and finished the game with 15 three-pointers, nobody had a better day than St. Joseph's Shannon O'Meara.
Playing with a very heavy heart, the SJHS senior finished with nine three-pointers and had 27 points.
O'Meara, who seemed like she couldn't miss on the day, dedicated the game to her grandfather, John Lyons, who passed away two days ago after struggling with Parkinson's Disease.
"It's a great feeling," O'Meara said. "Having a hard past couple of days, it was great and outstanding to have these feelings right now. This game was for him. He was watching me tonight, that's for sure. Words can't even describe it right now. It's an amazing feeling. I just felt the rhythm and my teammates were supporting me all the way."
"Shannon had to leave practice and she played for him tonight," Lindwall said. "Nine three's in one game is amazing. It was an incredible night of shooting. She was in the zone."
O'Meara wasn't the only person hitting the long ball. Bridget Sharnick finished with 19 points on the night and five of her shots were from downtown. Maite Gritsko added six points and Caitlin Sharnick pitched in with four.
For the Raiders, Mary Baskerville led the team with 14 points, while Morgan Baskerville finished with six. Olivia Carmona added five points and Danielle Delano pitched in with seven points. Taylor Poletti netted four for Enfield.
The story of the first half was the deep ball, as St. Joseph’s dominated from beyond the three-point line.
After the Raiders took a 6-0 lead, O’Meara got the Cadets on the board with a three-pointer with 4:31 left in the quarter. Just over 15 seconds later, O’Meara struck again to knot the score at 6-6.
After Enfield’s Taylor Poletti hit the layup to regain the lead for the Raiders, St. Joe’s exploded for a 13-0 run, with four of the shots coming from three-point land.
Off a break, O’Meara hit the three-pointer and. After Gritsko went 1-from-2 from the line, O’Meara ended the quarter when the team grabbed the offensive rebound, kicked it out to O’Meara and hit the three to make the score 15-8 after one.
Keeping the good times rolling, Bridget Sharnick started the second with a baseline three with 6:00 left in the half and O’Meara backed that up with a three-pointer 30 seconds later to extend the lead to 21-8.
"That's not really our game," Lindwall said. "That's the funny thing. We are a decent three-point shooting team and we do rely on it, but [Enfield] played a very good 1-3-1 that took away the middle. Jackie [Jozefick] and Bridget are our strength over the past two weeks. They took it away and we had to take whatever they gave us."
The Raiders tried to stop the bleeding when Delano went 1-for-2 from the line and Morgan Baskerville grabbed the offensive rebound and putback to bring the score within 10. However, the Cadets came storming back when Bridget Sharnick and Gritsko sank back-to-back three-pointers and drove the lead back up to 16 with 2:15 left in the half.
"I had to believe that we could do this," O'Meara said. "I am a senior and we wanted it. We wanted it since last year. It was a fantastic feeling seeing the time wind down. We were all excited and there's no words for it."
In addition to the hot shooting, the Cadets were outstanding on defense. After building the 6-0 lead with 5:37 left in the first, the Raiders were unable to get comfortable offensively.
They didn't score a field goal again until 2:35 left in the quarter. From there, Enfield was unable to get a bucket until midway through the second quarter.
"Our press has been good and very beneficial to us," Lindwall said. "We needed to score to get into that press, but we changed some things over the past three days with what we were doing in the press. It took away the middle of what they wanted to do."