St. Joseph can't overcome slow start, falls to Warde, 43-26

The rim wasn't very kind for both St. Joseph and Fairfield Warde high schools in Friday night's big FCIAC showdown. However, the Mustangs were able to get off to a quick start and use its stingy defense to upend the Cadets, 43-26.

"They totally outplayed us in the first half," St. Joseph head coach Chris Lindwall said. "We did some good things defensively all night. Defensively we were great, but we had a mismatch with Shania [Osborne] and Dave [Danko] did a good job trying to take advantage of that mismatch. We really did a nice job deflecting the ball, pressuring the wings and doing the little things. But offensively we looked lost. We panicked a little bit, and with as many seniors as we have on this team, it shouldn't be happening."

The key for Warde was it's first quarter, where the defense was strong and offense was firing on all cylinders. At the start of the second quarter, FWHS built a 16-2 advantage.

"It wasn't pretty, but we will take this," Fairfield Warde head coach Dave Danko said. "All year we have been solid on our defense. We made adjustments in the third and fourth quarters because I noticed [Bridget Sharnick] was doing so well for St. Joe's. She's a battler. She fights to the end and has a heart of a warrior. Our defense can do a lot of things and it obviously won us the game tonight. We missed a million layups. We held them to under 30 points."

St. Joe's was paced by the duo of Shannon O'Meara and Bridget Sharnick. Both seniors finished with six points and all those points were from the foul line. Senior Caitlin Sharnick added the team's lone three-pointer and finished with five points, while the combo of Ana DoCarmo and Maite Gritsko, both seniors, finished with four each.

For Warde, junior Sarah Cotto led all scorers with 20 points, while sophomore Shania Osborne, playing in her first game back from injury, finished with 14 points. Sophomore Daja Polk pitched in with six points in the winning effort.

"We are now 18-1 and hopefully we are going to be the No. 1 seed in the league," Danko said. "This was a big victory for us. We are young and have one senior. If we play hard and continue to do what we want, good things will come."

Trailing 16-2 going into the second quarter, the Cadets came back to cut the halftime deficit to single-digits. After Bridget Sharnick hit her free throws to cut the score to 16-4, DoCarmo picked up the steal and connected on the easy layup to make the score 16-6 with 7:15 left in the half.

After Bridget Sharnick went 1-for-2 from the line, Caitlin Sharnick gained control of the ball and hit the baseline three-pointer with 2:09 left in the half to make the score 16-10.

Fairfield finally got on the scoreboard when Olivia Parisi went 1-for-2 from the line and ended the half when Osborne went underneath for the layup as time expired to make the halftime score 19-10.

Gritsko did her best to keep St. Joe's in the game during the third, hitting four of the team's six points of the quarter, however the Mustangs went on a 14-4 run to start the fourth and put the game out of reach.

During that stretch, Cotto converted the old-fashion three-pointer, hit a three-pointer from downtown and drained three shots from the charity stripe. Caitlin Sharnick and DoCarmo were the lone St. Joe's players to hit jumpers during that stretch but the damage was done as the Mustangs built a 42-20 lead.

While the buckets weren't falling to Lindwall's team in the second, his team's defense was making it difficult for Warde to get quality looks at the net.

"I am still proud of our effort in the second half," Lindwall said. "We came out and played well against a really good playoff team. Fairfield can win it and Dave's doing a great job with these kids. We competed, but couldn't put the ball in the basket."

Before the Cadets could blink, the Mustangs put them in a hole that turned out to be too massive to climb out of.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Polk and Cotto gave Fairfield the 6-0 lead. After Osborne wen 1-for-2 from the line, Cotto connected on a layup under the basket and Polk hit another three-pointer from the top of the key to make the score 12-0.

Bridget Sharnick hit both her foul shots after going hard to the basket with 2:23 to play in the quarter to stop the bleeding, but Cotto came back with a jumper and Osborne hit the layup off a Fairfield steal to make the score 16-2 after one.

"I am frustrated because those are the shots that we normally make," Lindwall said. "We make those shots and do those things, but we got into the one-dribble pickup and we didn't attack the rim. We went East-West and that was a problem. We got to get better at that, but this was good for us. We have two more games in the regular season and we are hoping to get both those games."