By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The St. Paul Catholic girls basketball team hit a bit of a speed bump to end the month of January, going into February.
A slate of five games in eight days, including three over a four day stretch, tested the mettle of the relatively young squad.
The results were a 2-2 ledger against some extremely tough squads in games the Falcons hung around in until the end.
“It’s tough to play three games in four days at that age. [It’s] ridiculous,” said Mone. “It’s the schedule, cancellations, things like that. It happens.”
After a week off, the Falcons easily disposed of Wolcott (64-37) on Jan. 27 and then one day later, battled Pomperaug in Bristol to a 59-55 loss from the Maltby Street gymnasium.
That was followed by a 65-54 triumph over Torrington to end the month of January and on Feb. 1, the Falcons narrowly lost at Seymour 49-46 to fall to 12-3 on the campaign.
But as young as the squad is, those losses were all learning experiences and lessons for a team that has established chemistry rather quickly this year and has yet to earn a defeat by double-figures.
“You know, I wondered in the beginning how good we are,” said Mone about his group. “It’s hard to tell sometimes. We had no experience coming in expect really for Brigid [Johndrow] and then all of a sudden, they just jelled.”
“They’re playing together. They seem like they’re together, they play for each other. If someone has a bad game, somebody else picks it up.”
This team is led by a unique blend of experience and youth and that 1-2 combination has been doing the trick for St. Paul Catholic.
Johndrow is a senior that’s been playing for four years under Mone and does a little of everything well from the point guard position – the classic jack-of-all-trades guard every program craves.
And then there’s a super sub, freshman Janessa Gonzalez, who is taking the NVL by storm.
Over the contests against Pomperaug, Torrington, and Seymour, the youngster – in title only – came off the pine to score a combined 81 points, good for an average of 27.0 points-per-game during that stretch that included five three-pointers in one game, 13 fourth quarter points in another, and 29 against Seymour to conclude a tough stretch of play.
“Our leading scorer is a freshman,” said Mone of Gonzalez. “There’s no animosity what-so-ever. Brigid and her run plays for each other, back and forth. So I like that. A lot of times, you get some animosity when you get younger kids playing in front of older kids. I haven’t seen it yet and I hope I’m not going to. We’re three quarters through the year [and] it looks like we’re all right.”
Mone does an excellent mix-and-match job with Chantell Lopez and Alexandria Mourges in the starting line-up that complements rebounding fool Amelia Sanchez and veteran sharp-shooter Lexi Morneault quite well.
Molly Hooks is a quality rebounder off the bench and Jade Udoh is a special player for the Falcons, already showing the NVL a glimpse of what the forward/center can do in league battles.
Add in a little McKenzie Gauthier and Emma Cretella and the Falcons have 13 wins to show for it.
“I think we’re a good team,” said Mone. “Honestly, after what I’ve seen against Pomperaug, we can play against everybody the way it’s looking. We played Holy Cross to the wire. We can play and defend against great players which was evident tonight [against Torrington] so we’ve just got to keep plugging along, not get big-headed and keep working as hard as we’re working out there and I’ll think we’ll be all right.”
The season ends for the Falcons with four straight homes games and one final road date Derby.
Of course, the outcomes have yet to pass but if this team can rack up consecutive victories to close out the regular season, no one is going to view the squad anymore as a young squad.
That unit is going to be ready for a prime-time run in NVL and state tournament play.
“I’m surprised,” said Mone. “We’re sitting here, 15 games, and I’m like ‘how?’ Sometimes I tell my coaching staff I don’t know how these kids are doing it but they’re doing it. When they need a basket, they find a basket. When they need a stop, they find a stop. And when they just need that one rebound, they find that one rebound. And that one great pass that electrifies them, they happen to do it.”
“Kudos to them. I’m not doing anything. I just sit there. They do everything.”