By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Maybe the St. Paul girls basketball team sent the squad from Naugatuck to the foul line a bit too much during their Naugatuck Valley League tilt on Friday, Jan. 15.
But when the Falcons’ defense came to the forefront, the Greyhounds eventually began to give the ball away in droves.
St. Paul forced 24 turnovers against Naugatuck, Lizzy Ferraro led a balanced attack with 16 points as the Falcons flipped up a 52-29 victory from the Maltby Street Gymnasium in Bristol.
The win gave St. Paul a perfect 10-0 record at the halfway point of the season but those fouls allowed Naugatuck (3-8) to hang around over the first half of the game before a 12-1 run gave the Falcons a 31-16 edge at the half and the game was never in doubt from there.
And when the Falcons weren’t trying to foul everything in sight, the defense the squad was playing certainly gave the Greyhounds major fits throughout the contest.
“If you keep reaching, it’s a foul,” said St. Paul coach Joe Mone. “Some are close, some are not, some are just so obvious and you tell [the players] a hundred times but once were started just playing good solid defense, Naugatuck turned it over on their own. As I the players today, they’re thinking everything’s a steal. Because we’re pressing or trapping, you have to steal it, you have to steal it. Sometimes, you’ve got to let team’s make their own mistakes and when we decided to do that in the third and fourth quarter, we then started to pull away.”
“We’ve got to work on our defenses. It’s not totally bad. If we just stopped reaching, we’re really good defensively.”
Ferraro drilled shots early and late to the delight of Mone, leading all players in scoring while slick Lizzy Cretella posted 13 points, six rebounds and a team leading four steals.
Point guard Brigid Johndrow added five points, five rebounds and seven assists – to go along with three steals – fellow starter, Emily Sklenka, nabbed four rebounds and four assists while scooping in a hoop.
Steph Speaker zipped up four rebounds and two steals and off the bench, Amelia Sanchez had five points, four rebounds and two steals.
But reserve Alexa Morneault was a major factor in the fray, belting the Greyhounds for a near double-double of eight points and seven rebounds while also dishing out two assists and grabbing three steals in a complete game effort.
“Alexa was good the last two games,” said Mone. “She was injured in the beginning of the year, playing a little hurt. So we let her play JV a little to get her into the flow. She’s not 100-percent but she’s close to it. The last two games, she’s hit some big shots. She can shoot the ball which is what we envisioned in the beginning of the year before she got hurt.”
“She’s been a boost off the bench which is nice. With Jill [Kilmer] injured, we need some more scoring and it’s nice to get a couple kids – her and Amalia Sanchez – don’t do a bad job.”
Molly Hooks, Chantell Lopez, Corinne Johndrow, Lauren Palmer, and Lindsey O’Bright all made contributions to the winning effort.
Molly Kennedy dropped in 11 points for the Greyhounds but the offense became stagnant – especially when the gaffes, goofs, and miscues began to pile up.
Naugatuck was held to just eight total field goals – including no threes – in the game while the visiting outfit hit 13-of-20 free throws and those numbers wouldn’t cut it against the superior Falcons.
But the Greyhounds were pesky early – nabbing a 7-4 lead via a spin move and hope from Nicole Boucher (eight points) – before the St. Paul defense held the visitors to two points the rest of the stanza.
A 10-0 burst, highlighted by six straight points from Cretella, saw the Falcons grab a 14-9 edge after eight minutes of action.
“She’s really been playing tremendously,” said Mone of Cretella. “Like I told her the other day, there’s going to come the game when those shots aren’t falling. What are you going to do when that happens? I thought tonight she did a decent job at finding people open. She did a really good job once we switched her defensively onto Boucher without fouling and keeping her contained.”
“It’s nice to see probably one of my best offensive players turns it around on a night where she’s not shooting well and says, all right, I have to do something to help my team and playing defense on their best player was that and I was really happy with that.”
Ferraro made consecutive hoops early in the second but the Greyhounds stayed in it and when Ally Mezzo (six points) hit a quick jumper, it was a four point game (19-15) with 4:57 remaining before the half.
But St. Paul took a double-digit advantage for good when the squad went on a 12-1 period ending run, with five different girls scoring, and the Falcons surged into the halftime break in front 31-16.
St. Paul kept that advantage intact over the third tilt of action and when Brigid Johndrow found Ferraro for a high percentage hoop and Morneault drained a three, the home team took a 40-25 lead into the final period of play.
“Offensively, I thought we did really well,” said Mone. “In the second half against the zone, we moved the ball a little better and found people. Even though it was a poor shooting night, at least we were getting shots we wanted instead of forcing things so that was pretty good.”
But the Greyhounds truly couldn’t continue the pace as the St. Paul defense turned miscues into points and when Morneault found Brigid Jonhdrow for a hoop – plus a foul – it was a 21-point game with 3:28 left to play.
And to put the icing on the cake, Palmer drained a short jumper to end the game as the Falcons went to the pay window for the 10th consecutive time, defeating Naugatuck by 23 points in the end.
“It is what is it.” said Mone. “It’s a long season. You’ll have good games, bad games…I just don’t want to go backwards and I don’t want us to get to full of ourselves. I want to keep just pushing forward and work on some of the things we’re doing a little poorly right now. If we want to be really good or a championship type team, games like that can’t happen.”
NOTES…The 29 points St. Paul allowed the Greyhounds was the fewest since the Falcons defeated Ansonia 61-24 on Tuesday, Jan. 5…In JV action, St. Paul needed overtime but the Falcons won yet another game.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE