By MICHAEL LETENDRE
WATERBURY – The St. Paul girls basketball team looked in midseason form during its opener against Kennedy on Tuesday, Dec. 15 in Waterbury.
In fact, when the home team finally scored its first basket of the contest, it was already too late to make a game out of it.
The Falcons zipped out to a 16-0 edge, never looking back, as St. Paul vanquished the Eagles in a 62-35 thrashing from Kennedy High School in a Naugatuck Valley League battle.
The Falcons (1-0) used a tough zone defense to force Kennedy to shoot from outside and when those shots missed, the St. Paul offense was relentless in its attack, piling up the points in the process.
“The three things we talked about were no guard penetration because those guards get to the hole – force them to shoot outside,” said St. Paul coach Joe Mone. “The second thing was we have to rebound or we’re in trouble because we’re small [so] we had to box out and rebound. And the other thing we talked about was no reaching when they were trying to penetrate. [It was] all done.”
“And the last thing, which is going to be what we’re doing, we’re running. We’re getting out, we’re filling lanes.”
Jill Kilmer swooped to the hoop early and often, collecting a game high 17 points, 12 rebounds, and several steals while Lizzy Ferraro added 13 points, five rebounds and two steals in a complete game effort.
Crafty Lizzy Cretella brought her all-around game to the hardwood, racking up 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal while teammate Amelia Sanchez notched 11 points, six rebounds, and two steals.
Point guard Brigid Johndrow scored nine points, snared four rebounds, swiped three steals and dished out six assists as she directed the show to near perfection.
While the St. Paul bench didn’t notch a single point, their effort on defense was worthy of note as the pine time group gobbled up 15 rebounds.
Lauren Palmer nabbed eight rebounds off the bench, Molly Hooks, and Stephanie Speaker each added three while Corinne Johndrow added a rebound and did her part in St. Paul’s vaunted zone defensive schemes.
However, that reserve group didn’t care about scoring points as the ultimate win – and victory – was easily obtained on the road.
“They just don’t care (about individual statistics),” said Mone. “They just want to win.”
The Eagles were encouraged to shoot – and miss – three-pointers all game long as the team missed 19-of-22 attempts for a miserable 13.6 shooting percentage.
Overall, Kennedy made only 12-of-54 shots (22.2-percent), was out-rebounded by St. Paul by 14 (49-35) and forced into 18 turnovers.
Eagles’ point guard Lynadia Whiting dropped in 11 points – notching nine in the first half – and her first hoop of the game, with 1:28 left in the first stanza, was the first points of the contest for Kennedy in what turned into a quick blowout.
And the first four minutes of the game was a complete blur for the Eagles as Brigid Johndrow forced the tempo, Cretella nailed a long jumper, later found Sanchez for a short hoop, saw Ferrero drop in two free throws before Cretella canned a big three-pointer to make it a 15-0 push with just under four minutes to play in the first period.
By that time in the game, that 15 point edge felt like 30 as the Eagles looked down and out.
“We must have shot 60 percent in the first four minutes which helps matters immensely,” said Mone. “A lot of our kids had a piece of the action for a stretch. It’s really hard to defend multiple scorers.”
It was 18-3 after one and when Whiting slipped in five consecutive points late in the second frame as the Eagles cut the deficit to 25-14 with 3:21 left in the half but would never get it to single digits.
St. Paul scored 10 of the final 12 points of frame through more blistering offense and when Ferraro ended the half with two charity tosses, the visitors regained the edge and went into the locker room in charge at 35-16.
“I saw the extra pass, I saw the execution, and I saw the communication on defense, which is way ahead of where I thought we would be,” at this time of the season, said Mone.
The lead ballooned to 27 points midway through the third period via a Brigid Johndrow three and when Kilmer ended the frame with a conventional three-point play, St. Paul surged in front by a 53-26 push.
The Falcons made it a 33-point game at 61-28 with 6:00 remaining when Cretella canned two free throws and soon after, the reserves mopped up play and cruised to a huge win on the road to start the season on the right foot.
“This was a big game for us because we’re down a couple kids but more importantly, this team [Kennedy] is supposed to be one of the teams that is going to be at the top of the NVL,” said Mone. “It was a good statement for us. I think if we just played well, I would be happy. To win in that kind of a fashion, I mean it was pretty dominant but like I told the kids before the game, its one game – win or lose tonight.”
“It’s a long ways from any kind of championship or any kind of great season. Anyone can go 1-0 and lose 17 in a row. So I’m I happy? [Heck] yeah, they did a great job.”
NOTES…St. Paul’s Emily Sklenka, a senior forward for the Falcons, had a death in the family and missed the game. Playing for their teammate, Mone thought the team had a little extra motivation to work with against Kennedy. “I think they were a little geared up to win one for Emily,” said Mone.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE