Rather than look too far ahead, the Trinity Catholic girls basketball team prefers to take it one game and one goal at a time.
So the task at hand Tuesday evening for the Crusaders was bouncing back from Friday's tough loss to unbeaten city rival Stamford.
Senior standout Ali Palma made sure that would happen -- and in the process, the Crusaders were even able to check off a goal that few teams in the region have accomplished to this point.
Palma scored 15 of her game-high 25 points in the final quarter as host Trinity Catholic turned back hard-charging St. Joseph, 55-41, and secured a state tournament spot barely past the midway point of the season.
The Cadets (3-9) trailed by as many as 22 late in the third quarter, but refused to go away.
Led by senior Jenn Vazquez's 14 points, St. Joe's trimmed the deficit to as little as nine before Palma and the Crusaders (8-3) pulled away down the stretch.
"We had a few days to get over the loss to Stamford and the key for us tonight was keeping our composure," said Palma, who notched a double-double with 12 rebounds to go along with three steals and one block. "We've been playing together for a while, so we're confident we'll find a way. Clinching states is nice, and now we're focused on making FCIACs. Hopefully we can get a home game and fill the gym."
The Crusaders appear poised to make some postseason noise. Their three losses have come to teams that entered Tuesday night with a combined record of 32-0.
"We're taking it one at a time and hopefully we'll be peaking at just the right time," Trinity Catholic coach Tom Kriz said. "It was a heartbreaking loss to a good Stamford team, and I thought the girls responded pretty well tonight. It's exam week and they're tired. St. Joe's did a nice job, they hung in there but Ali played consistent and turned it up late."
Senior Kellie Hurd carried the Crusaders early on, scoring 13 of her 14 points in the first half. Sophomore Amy Hurd added eight points in the victory.
Lauren DellaVecchia, Chloe Dudzinski and Mairead Donahue each had six points for the Cadets. Donahue had six rebounds and two blocks, and Vazquez pulled down five boards.
St. Joe's scored five points in the first quarter, seven in the second and six in the third before coming on strong with 23 in the fourth.