St. Joseph basketball on cloud nine after 50-44 class M finals victory

For the first time since the 1979 season, the St. Joseph High School girls basketball team is on top of the world, as they upended a tough Cromwell team 50-44 Saturday afternoon during the CIAC class M finals at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

"I am so proud of my kids right now because we knew they would be coming back at us," St. Joseph head coach Chris Lindwall said. "They are a great team, they are well-coached and have some excellent players. At the end we were kind of trying to survive and I said to them to stop, play our game and do what we have been doing. We needed to call those timeouts and make that happen. We executed everything that we needed to do in the last two minutes."

With the victory, the Cadets finished off a dream season in capturing the CIAC class M title.

"This is unbelievable right now," junior Jackie Jozefick said. "I just can't believe it just happened. I just knew I had to do anything that I could to help my team and I tried to do it. I had a feeling this would be a tough game, but the FCIAC prepares us for that. We were really excited to be here."

For the Cadets, senior Bridget Sharnick finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Jozefick finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and two assists. However it was her perfect 8-for-8 from the charity strip that set the tone for the Cadets down the stretch.

In addition to Sharnick and Jozefick, senior Caitlin Sharnick contributed with eight points, eight rebounds and two assists, while senior Shannon O'Meara pitched in with six points and one rebound. Not to be outdone was Ana DoCarmo, who was a leader on the floor and added five points, three assists and one rebound.

"We tried to be physical back [to Cromwell] and keep our heads on straight and not let it get to us," Caitlin Sharnick said. "We knew the game wouldn't be over at the half and we needed to play like it was 0-0. We didn't play our best, but still started the fourth quarter with the lead. It's amazing here and a dream come true. We did it."

For Cromwell, Nicole Rojas led the team with 13 points, six rebounds and one assists, while Mya Villard added 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Emma Belcourt finished with a team-high 16 points and added five rebounds and one assist.

"They (Cromwell) fought hard and made it a game," said Cromwell head coach Kelly Maher said. "We averaged sixty points a game, St. Joe's played good defense and I thought we rushed our shots (in the first half). In the third quarter, I thought we had better spacing. We got some stops."

After a back-and-f0rth first few minutes, the Cadets started to build its lead. With 3:06 left in the first, DoCarmo hit a floater from the foul line, was fouled and hit her foul shot to give St. Joe's the 8-6 lead, a lead they wouldn't give up the rest of the way.

DoCarmo struck again with eight seconds to play in the quarter, as she buried the three-pointer to give the Cadets the 11-6 lead after one.

"Ana is amazing," Caitlin Sharnick said. "She keeps everyone under control, keeps us calm. When things start to get to us, she's the one that tells us that we got this. She had all the right calls and her plays worked. She's really good."

After Villard hit the jumper to start the second, St. Joe's broke away with a quick 7-0 that saw Bridget Sharnick drain a bucket and two foul shots, while Caitlin Sharnick calmly sank the three-pointer.

Rojas stopped the bleeding for Cromwell with a two foul shots, but O'Meara came back with a baseline three-pointer with 3:50 left in the half to extend the lead to 21-10.

Also in the first half, Juliana Farmer and O'Meara each sank three-pointers in the second quarter to help give the Cadets the 31-16 lead at the break.

Although the Panthers cut into the lead in the third, as Rojas finished with eight points and Belcourt hit a three-pointer, the Cadets held firm in the final frame.

With the score 47-44 and Cromwell on the charge with less than a minute to play, Jozefick gained possession of the ball and was fouled. She was clutch and sank both foul shots for the 49-44 lead.

With 44.9, DoCarmo was under the Panther basket and had the leap of her life, as she grabbed the defensive rebound and held on to get fouled. She hit one of the foul shots and gave the Cadets the 50-44 lead.

"Four years ago at the end of the year we had those kids in the locker room and their freshman team went undefeated," Lindwall said. "They were a great team and we said that this team could win the state championship if they make the commitment. Those kids made the commitment. Everybody was asking me why I kept nine seniors and that's why. Every one of them, some one did something along this run that was unbelievable. This was an unbelievable team win."

 Class L Girls Basketball Championship at Mohegan Sun Arena

  1st 2nd 3rd 4th  Total 
St. Joe’s 11 20 3 16 50
Cromwell 6 10 12 16 44

St. Joseph Highights

Bridget Sharnick - 16 pts, 8 rebounds

Jacqueline Jozefick - 10 pts, 11 rebounds, 2 assists

Caitlin Sharnick - 8 pts, 8 rebounds, 2 assists

Shannon O’Meara - 6 pts, 1 rebound

Ana DoCarmo - 5 pts, 1 rebound, 3 assists

Juliana Farmer - 3 pts

Maite Gritsko - 2 pts, 2 rebounds, 2 assists

Cromwell Highlights

Emma Belcourt - 16 pts, 5 rebounds, 1 assist

Nicole Rojas - 13 pts, 6 rebounds, 1 assist

Mya Villard - 10 pts, 14 rebounds

Alyssa Wright - 4 rebounds, 1 assist

Nikki Bitinaitis - 3 pts, 1 rebound, 1 assist

Araya Lessard - 2 pts