By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The St. Paul Catholic girls basketball motto is a simple statement which goes along the lines of wanting to play its best basketball during the month of March.
You know, tournament time.
And while the 9-0 start to the campaign is impressive, it’s been St. Paul Catholic head coach Joe Mone’s ability to use a good portion of bench in those games that’s done the trick as everyone is getting experience during meaningful minutes.
It’s that mixing-and-matching that shows Mone how versatile his bench can be when thrown in with those starters.
“We’re going eight or nine deep,” said Mone. “Sometimes I can go 10. What I like about the bench, after the first seven or so, you kind of pick who you want. I can play small, I can play big. We’ve had games where I’ve taken Alex Morneault and Chantell Lopez to start at guard and actually put them as forwards with Jenessa [Gonzalez] and another guard so we’re kind of tiny but those two are physically tough.”
The starting line-up sees the likes of Morneault and multi-talented Brigid Johndrow at guard while Chantell Lopez, Alexa Mourges, and the ultra-talented Amelia Sanchez hit the floor and that group has a ton of experience.
Then, Mone can hit squads with the clever Gonzalez, along with guard Aidrianna Lopez along with reserve forwards Molly Hook and Jade Udoh off the bench.
That is one heck of a productive second unit and against Kennedy, in a 50-37 win, those reserves were responsible for several points and rebounds to compliment those starters.
“As you saw tonight, we put the two six footers with Amelia kind of playing a wing in Sanchez’s slot so we kind of can do a few things,” said Mone of the win over Kennedy. “We’re still tinkering. The thing I like about us, I think we’re going to get better.”
“We’re young, we’ve got a lot of young kids. We really haven’t figured out the whole thing yet.”
Despite the fast 9-0 start, Mone is still putting the pieces and parts together and that’s an enjoyable task for most coaches.
“This is fun for me because for the past two years, we’ve had the same kids,” said Mone. “You knew what you were going to get. I’m kind of excited because I see different things from different people which, as a coach, works out really well and it’s nice to see the kids listen and work.”
“I’m kind of excited how the youth is developing as time goes on.”
The formula is simple for St. Paul Catholic, thanks to that experienced core that includes captains Johndrow and Morneault.
That senior crew getting varsity minutes early and often over the years, those warriors are battled tested and that experience floats down to those talented underclassmen.
We’ve got five really good seniors,” said Mone. “They’re doing a really good job with the young kids as being leaders, like helping them learning me more than anything like how I am, how I yell, how things go so I’m proud of that.”
And then there’s Sanchez who is the squad’s best rebounder at only 5-foot-9.
Unafraid of contact, Sanchez will bang against all the trees the NVL has to offer, and plays a solid brand of defense as well.
She has the court demeanor you would want all your student athletes to have and against Kennedy last week, Sanchez managed to snare seven offensive rebounds in the game – an impressive total for any hoopster.
And she can kick in double-figures scoring for her squad as well.
“I’ll tell you, Amelia Sanchez is having a great year,” said Mone. “She gets the rebounds that, all of a sudden, I just see this skinny little kid jumping over everybody or through people. She’s having a really solid senior year which is great because one of the things with her, I told her, ‘last year, you were inconsistent. You’d have a good game, bad game, a good game, a bad game.’
“This year, I wanted her to work on being whatever consistent is and I’ll take it. And she’s doing a tremendous job.”