MILFORD — For three quarters, the Ridgefield girls’ basketball team held strong with one of the state’s powerhouse teams. The fourth quarter is when the Tigers found out just how good Lauralton Hall is.
Led by Carly Fabbri’s nine fourth-quarter points, the Crusaders went on a 12-0 run to turn a close contest into a 52-38 victory in the second round of the CIAC Class LL state tournament at Lauralton Hall.
The second-seeded Crusaders (23-1) will host No. 10 E.O. Smith, an upset winner over NFA in overtime, Monday night at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
“It’s who she is,” Lauralton coach Amanda Forcucci said of Fabbri. “She is a winner. She is a competitor. Nothing was keeping her from coming back in the game.”
Fabbri finished with 19 points, including the big fourth quarter after she left the court with 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury.
When Fabbri jogged back on the court to return to her team before the fourth quarter began, there was no stopping the Lauralton senior and the rest of the Crusaders.
After Andrea Ferrero cut the Ridgefield deficit to 34-31 less than 2 minutes into the fourth quarter, the Crusaders took over. Emma McCarthy started a 12-0 run with a bucket and Fabbri added two free throws and a 3-pointer to increase the margin to 42-31.
By the time McCarthy ended the run with a pair of free throws, Lauralton had a 46-31 lead. Ferrero ended the Lauralton run with a 3-pointer to get the Tigers within 12 points, but Ridgefield didn’t have a run in it to get back in the game.
“It is frustrating for us,” Ridgefield coach Katie Reed said after her team finished 14-8. “We had a lot of opportunities, but we could not connect. We kept up with them for three quarters.
“They are a fantastic team. They are very well-coached. They brought it. They were ready to go.”
The frustration Reed talked about was due to the missed shots on the inside by the Tigers throughout the contest. Had the Tigers converted on the inside in the opening half, a 2-point halftime deficit could have been a Ridgefield lead.
“We had some really good shots inside,” Reed said. “We just didn’t get them to go in.”
An unusually sloppy half by the Crusaders allowed the Tigers to hang around. Behind the inside presence and defense of 6-3 sophomore Rebecca Lawrence, Lauralton struggled to get going on offense.
McCarthy’s six points in the first quarter helped the Crusaders to a 9-8 lead before Maggie Salandra took over in the second quarter.
“The emotions are always high because you prepare so long for this,” Forcucci said. “We started a little slow, but
we settled down.”
Salandra scored eight points in the second quarter and played tenacious defense, helping the Crusaders limit the Tigers to just 19 points in the first half.
“It was important when the game was not going our way to continue to play our defense,” Salandra said after finishing with 12 points. “Sometimes you cannot control the offense. But, defense is our game. We work very hard on our defense in practice.”
After Ferrero gave Ridgefield a 13-11 lead with a 3-pointer 2:43 into the second quarter, Salandra scored Lauralton’s next eight points, including a 3-pointer to even the game at 19.
“It was important for us to just play our game,” Salandra said.
Ridgefield took a 28-25 lead in the third quarter on a basket by Lawrence, but, behind four points by Fabbri and a bucket by Salandra, Lauralton closed the quarter on a 7-0 run for a 32-28 lead.
McCarthy finished with 15 points for the Crusaders. Ferrero led Ridgefield with 14 points, while Lawrence and Jessica Camarda each had seven.