By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The St. Paul Catholic girls basketball team played in over 25 games last season, going 22-4 overall and losing to some of the Connecticut’s best squads.
That Falcons’ outfit was a blend of experienced hands and exciting youngsters who knew how to put it all together and scoring the basketball.
Well, two All-Copper players have been subtracted from this year’s mix but, don’t be fooled for a minute, the current squad – who started the season this past Tuesday with a road game at Waterbury Career Academy – has the firepower to be just as good as last season’s edition.
A high playoff seed is usually in the cards for St. Paul Catholic; and if you like defense, the Falcons are your team to watch.
St. Paul Catholic will be turning to a couple of dynamic sophomores to lead the charge this year and this is what you can expect from the gymnasium down on Maltby Street:
- PAUL CATHOLIC
Head Coach: Joe Mone (23rd season; head coach of the program since leaving Bristol Eastern as an assistant)
Overall Record: In 23 seasons, Mone is 330-187 overall.
Last Season’s Record: 22-4 overall (Won the NVL Tournament; No. 7 St. Paul Catholic fell to No. 2 Career Magnet, 50-46, in the Class M bracket in the quarterfinal round).
Key Subtractions: Brigid Johndrow (guard, All-Cooper Division 2017), Alexa Morneault (guard), Amelia Sanchez (forward, All-Cooper Division), Chantel-Marie Lopez (forward), Alexandria Mourges (forward).
Players to Watch: Janessa Gonzalez (so, guard, All-NVL), Jade Udoh (so, forward/center), Aidrianna Lopez (sr, guard), Molly Hooks (sr, forward/center), Lindsey O’Bright (sr, guard), Bridgett Fithian-Giantonio (sr, guard), Catherine Ciampi (jr, guard), Emma Cretella (jr, guard), Olivia Stump (so, guard), Morgan Kolb (jr)
Strengths: Several contributors
Weaknesses: Depth, experience
St. Paul Catholic 2017-18 girls basketball: It’s all for one and one for all when it comes to the St. Paul Catholic girls basketball program.
That slogan isn’t just some cheesy catch-phrase used by the three Musketeers but how the program approached all of their 26 games last season.
A generous bunch of seniors – including All-Cooper Division selections Brigid Johndrow (9.9 points-per-game last season) and Amelia Sanchez, among others – allowed two talented freshmen, Janessa Gonzalez and Jade Udoh, to play several minutes last season without complaint.
And that includes serious crunch time minutes.
It’s that kind of sacrifice that makes the program on Maltby Street as successful as it always is.
And the Gonzalez/Udoh duo were easily the best twosome off the bench that the Copper Division, perhaps in all the NVL, offered last year.
Only three players notched over 300 points in Copper Division play and Gonzalez – an All-NVL selection – was one of those.
As a freshman, she flipped in 13.2 points-per-game and that was all off the pine.
Don’t forget, Gonzalez helped the Falcons to their first ever NVL Tournament Championship as she was the MVP by the time things were said and done.
And then there was Udoh, an enforcer in the lane, and a slick finisher at the hoop.
Her offensive game (6.5 ppg) is ever improving but her rebounding game, just under 8.0 per outing, gives St. Paul Catholic size and ability in the lane.
The Gonzalez/Udoh combo should be starting this season and bringing along a number of role players.
Along with Gonzalez, Mone will turn to several senior guards including Aidrianna Lopez, Lindsey O’Bright, and Bridgett Giantonio.
One or more of that group could be starting for the Falcons.
Up front, senior Molly Hooks (4.0 ppg) is a legitimate option at forward/center and will attack the hoop with zest as well.
Juniors Catherine Ciampi and Emma Cretella are two guards that should also factor into the mix.
Don’t forget about sophomore Olivia Stump and junior Morgan Kolb.
That’s the top 10 and, as always, that group will play defense – something that will trouble the rest of the Copper Division.
Mone wants this team to be playing its best brand of basketball as tournament time approaches and while this squad could be a work in progress early – getting the right chemistry down – it’s hard to envision any other team in the Copper Division winning the league title.
St. Paul Catholic went 22-4 last season and this squad has enough firepower to duplicate that ledger this year.
The Falcons went all the way to the Class M quarterfinal round before losing to Career Magnet in a very close four-point finish.
Expect the squad to be in the Class M mix and should be one of the best teams the NVL produces this year.
Mone and crew will see competition from all the usual schools in Waterbury including Holy Cross, Kennedy and Sacred Heart.
Big Games…A slate of three consecutive home games in mid-January, ending with a huge encounter against Holy Cross on Jan. 19 from the Maltby Street Gymnasium will be quite a challenge.
The Falcons will also be playing back-to-back games at the Fairfield-Warde Christmas Tournament over Dec. 27-28 starting off with the host team at 2 p.m. on the first day of action.