The St. Joseph Cadets led for the entirety of their game against the Darien Blue Wave in their 57-42 victory at Darien High School Tuesday night. Before the Blue Wave could manage to get into any kind of an offensive rhythm, they found themselves in a 20-3 first quarter hole.

The importance of a road win over a quality opponent with a similar record at a critical time in the season was not lost on St. Joseph coach Joe Cavallaro.

"Absolutely, it's a big win," Cavallaro said. "We play four games this week so every game is big. Nobody gets to practice anymore because of the weather. It was a good, clean game. Both teams played well. I know [Darien] has played really well some games, but tonight just wasn't their night."

Before the Blue Wave even knew what had hit them, they were chasing 17 points thanks to some clutch shooting by the Cadets, including a pair of 3-pointers by Jess Jowdy and one by Nancy Stablein.

"We made three or four 3's right off the bat, which changed the whole game," Cavallaro said. "Playing on the road we wanted to get some kind of a lead, and it's easier to play ahead. We played good defense, and we played hard the whole game."

Stablein spearheaded the St. Joseph attack by dropping a team-high 13 points. Taylor Whiting also found her way into double digits with 11 points.

For Darien, the early 17-point deficit - and subsequent 32-14 halftime score - was simply too much to overcome against the talented St. Joseph squad.

"I think we were just kind of off-balance the entire game. We didn't play our game," Darien senior captain Julia Boulton said. "I know we can play a lot better than that."

For Darien, Marren led the way with a game-high 14 points. Kate Bushell chipped in with 12 points.

In the second quarter, Darien suffered a big loss as captain Nicole Buch was knocked out of the game. Buch apparently lost a tooth after falling hard to the court while attempting to corral a lose ball.

"She's tough. She'll be ok," Darien coach Gary Peterson said.

Trailing 48-23 going into the final frame, Darien played what was easily its best eight minutes of basketball on the night. Even with the game's outcome already decided, the Blue Wave managed to make the final score respectable by outscoring the Cadets 19-9 in the fourth.

"This is the first time we've had two days of practice to get ready in a long time," Peterson said. "We're still not quite there yet. We don't have a lot of time to fix it, but we've got to do it. It is what it is. When you get off to a slow start, it's tough against a good team."

Both St. Joseph and Darien had already qualified for the state tournament by winning eight or more games, but for the Cadets (11-4), the win was their seventh in their last eight games, and it helped push them one step closer to an FCIAC playoff spot.

"We knew this was a big game for us to step up," Whiting said. "This is definitely a confidence booster because we know we have the ability to move up [in the standings]. Right now we're in the middle and we're trying to move up."

Darien (10-7) still controls its own destiny for the FCIAC playoff tournament. The Blue Wave need to win their final three games to guarantee an FCIAC playoff appearance, though they could also make it with help from other teams even if they don't win all three.

Still, Boulton didn't sound like she wanted to leave anything to chance.

"One of our goals coming into this season was to make FCIAC's and we still want to get that done, and if we win the next three we've got it," Boulton said.