FAIRFIELD — You can’t keep a good player in check.
That good player, St. Joseph’s Stephen Paolini, scored 19 second-half points to help the Cadets forge a 56-52 road win over FCIAC rival Fairfield Warde on Monday night.
“I told him to stick with it,” St. Joseph coach Kevin Wielk said of Paolini, who missed his first 10 shots from the floor and was limited to two points in the first half. “Stephen broke his thumb (three days earlier) in our win over Central.”
Paolini scored eight points in the third quarter when the 5-1 Cadets turned a 31-25 deficit into a 39-37 advantage.
Dan Tobin (12 points) netted six points in the frame, including a 3-pointer after the senior tri-captain went to the floor to save a turnover and then knocked in a pass from Glenn Manigault. Tobin ended the game with three assists and seven rebounds.
Paolini added nine points and an assist in the final period. He finished with six steals, three assists and seven rebounds.
With the game tied for the fourth time at 52-all, Paolini made a step-back jumper from just inside the foul line with 55 seconds on the clock. A tri-captain, Paolini them stole an entry pass to the block and scored in transition with 22 seconds left.
Warde, now 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the FCIAC, had three shots at the basket miss on its next position. St. Joe’s third tri-captain, Brendan Kade went to the floor for a steal with 5.4 ticks remaining.
“We had to keep grinding it out,” Wielk said. “We were two of four unbeaten FCIAC teams. They are a great team. We needed to scramble, help on defense, and find a way to win some rebounds.”
Warde used its work on the backboards to create nine second-chance points in the first quarter.
Matt Houghton (11 points) and Jeff Seganos Jr. hit three-pointers on extended possessions, as the Mustangs took a 10-8 lead.
Six Mustangs scored points in the second quarter, led by Houghton (seven points) and Matt Becker (five points).
The Cadets’ Paul Fabbri scored eight points of his 11 points in the stanza. He added an assist on Paolini’s first bucket with 1:12 remaining in the half. Fabbri had four assists and five rebounds overall.
Kade had five points and an assist in the frame.
“I thought we could have had a bigger lead,” Warde coach Ryan Swaller said. “We missed some shots inside and had some threes rim out. You can’t shoot fifty percent from the foul line against a good team like St. Joes. We could have found four points there.”
Warde was 1-for-8 from the floor to start the second half. Eli Feay scored on a put back.
Paolini hit three shots around a spinning layup by Tobin.
“We write on the board 50-50 balls are key, we want to make them 75-25,” Wielk said. “Danny Tobin is our glue guy when it comes to that. Especially in the second half, he has a knack for making a play that doesn’t show on the stat line.”
Paolini followed his miss and banked it in to open the fourth quarter.
Tobin scored on a left-handed drive and then muscled home a rebound for a 45-40 advantage.
Warde junior Brendan McMahon (15 points) pulled up for a 3-pointer, but Paolini answered with a slash to the hoop for a bucket.
After Tobin won a scramble for a loose ball, Fabbri assisted on Paolini’s foul line jumper midway through the stanza.
Seganos Jr.’s trey made it a one possession game at 49-46, but the Mustangs missed 3-of-4 from the line on their next two trips.
Kade buried a baseline jumper, before McMahon’s long-range jumper and Segano Jr.’s weakside layup off a great look from McMahon tied things at 52.
“I felt our defense did a great job against an All-League player (Paolini),” Swaller said. “He took control. Maybe, I should have went to a zone…That’s on me. There was a lot of upside. When you lose a game like this you have to grow from it.”
“Matt Becker had 18 rebounds and Eli Zeay had 12. But, we didn’t hurt them as bad as we could have (points on offensive rebounds).”
ST. JOSEPH 56, WARDE 52
Dan Tobin 5 1-2 12, Paul Fabbri 3 3-5 11, Tyler DuBose 0 0-0 0, Jason James 1 0-0 3, Steve Paolini 10 1-4 21, Brendan Kade 3 0-1 6, Glenn Manigault 1 0-0 3, Kyren Jones 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 5-12 56
Christian Homa 1 0-0 3, Jeff Seganos Jr. 3 0-0 8, Matt Becker 1 4-10 7, Brendan McMahon 6 0-1 15, Matt Houghton 4 1-2 12, Eli Feay 2 1-2 6, Jack McKenna 0 1-2 1. Totals: 17 7-17 52
St. Joseph 8 17 14 17 – 56
Warde 10 21 6 15 – 52
3-Pointers: SJ-Fabbri 2, Tobin, James, Manigault; FW-McMahon 3, Houghton 3, Seganos 2, Homa, Becker, Feay