FAIRFIELD >> Coming off a loss to South-West Conference leading Bethel on Wednesday, 10th-ranked Notre Dame-Fairfield had a chance to rebound against league rival and No. 8-ranked New Fairfield Friday night, and it did just that.
Led by Gabrielle Joseph’s 16 points from the low post and a stifling defense in the second half, the Lancers (12-2) defeated the Rebels 37-31 inside the Sister Marion Rielly Memorial Auditorium.
“We had a tough night the other night against Bethel,” Notre Dame-Fairfield coach Eric DeMarco said. “But I think we grew from it. Tonight from the beginning of the game we knew this was going to be a grinding game.”
Physicality and defense defined this top-10 match-up.
Although it only scored 11 points in the second half itself, Notre Dame held New Fairfield to 10.
Precious Montgomery contributed 13 points for the Lancers while the Rebels were led by Sydney Gouveia’s 15.
“I thought after we made an adjustment at halftime,” New Fairfield coach Brendan Moore said. “To hold that team to 37 points, we’re happy with it. There’s some things on offense we have to get better with.”
Both teams started the game by taking jump shots and hanging around the perimeter. Montgomery hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Gouveia made three for New Fairfield in the second quarter as the Rebels hung around. But Montgomery hit another with just seven seconds left in the half to turn a two-point lead into five for Notre Dame.
Then the physical play and defense emerged.
The first basket of the third quarter came with 4:33 left — a 3-pointer from Whitney Fulton — and then after two jumpers by Gouveia, Joseph got a put-back under the rim and that was all for the third.
“They started to put more pressure on the 3-point line,” Montgomery said. “So once we knew that we knew if we attacked the lane it would be open.”
Joseph took a beating down low as the game wore on, but took advantage as she went to the line twice in the fourth, made two of three free throws and altered many other shots of defense.
“We had a plan on being physical with her,” Moore said. “But she’s a great player with what I call a big-time motor. She’s all over the floor. Incredible offensive rebounder, she seems to have a knack to get to the spot.”
“We needed to do a little bit better job at clearing the boards with a body,” Moore said. “There we times where I thought we had the stop, we just couldn’t come up with the stop.”
Kristen Teklits scored four points for the Rebels in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough as New Fairfield dropped its second game of the season.
“We knew we had to play with a lot of intensity and execute on the defensive side,” Fulton said. “We knew we had certain players we had to lock up more than other players — Teklits, No. 4 [Leah Anderson], No. 15 [Pamela Sbarra] — once the defensive side was there we knew the offensive side would come.”
Notre Dame-Fairfield improves to 1-1 vs. ranked teams this year. It lost to then-No. 2 New London 61-39 on Dec. 29.
“I said to Kristen Teklits I think we’re going to do this once or twice more,” DeMarco. “They’re in Class M, we’re in Class M, Bethel. The three of us will be following each other around for a while.”
Notre Dame-Fairfield 37, New Fairfield 31
New Fairfield: 10 11 4 6 — 31
ND-Fairfield: 13 13 5 6 — 37
(at Notre Dame-Fairfield)
New Fairfield (31) — Kelly LaRegina 0 0-0 0, Leah Anderson 1 0-0 2, Rachael Cammarano 0 0-2 0, Sydney Gouveia 6 0-0 15, Grace Ware 0 0-0 0, Pamela Sbarra 2 1-2 5, Allison Teklits 0 0-0 0, Emma Lyden 0 0-0 0, Kristen Teklits 4 1-3 9, Kerrigan Quinn 0 0-0 0 — Total 13 2-7 31.
Notre Dame-Fairfield (37) — Erin Harris 1 0-1 3, Whitney Fulton 1 0-0 3, Precious Montgomery 3 4-4 13, Gabrielle Joseph 6 4-7 16, Samantha LaValle 0 0-0 0, Aliyah Louis 0 0-0 0 — Total 11 8-13 37.