Maybe the St. Paul girls basketball team was using the early part of the season as a warm up. The Falcons squeaked by perennial NVL powerhouse Holy Cross 57-54 in the season opener.
After a pair of losses in the FCIAC Holiday Tournament to Fairfield-Ludlowe and Fairfield-Warde, the Falcons edged out Sacred Heart another NVL contender by a slim 52-45 margin.
Last week, the road would only get steeper having to take on two teams at the top of the heap 6-2 Naugatuck and 8-1 Watertown. St. Paul served notice to the rest of the league that the Falcons have taken flight racking up a pair of blow out wins improving to 9-0 in the NVL.
Naugatuck put up a fight for the first half at least as St. Paul took a 19-13 advantage into the half. The Falcons began to run the floor and in the process ran Naugatuck right out of the Rev. Brian Monnerat Gymnasium to the tune of a 53-36 win last Tuesday.
“I thought we did a good job the whole game defensively,” said St. Paul head coach Joe Mone. “Offensively, we were settling for shooting threes and just standing around.”
“In the second half, we talked about attacking the seams and that opened up some shots in the paint. We threw a little full court pressure on them it they got rattled a little bit.”
Next up was the Indians of Watertown last Friday and for the first five minutes, it looked like this one would go down to the wire. St. Paul trailed 10-9 with three minutes remaining in the opening quarter before the Falcons took off.
A 15-2 burst turned a tight game into a runaway with St. Paul on top 24-12. It was over just as quickly with a 21-5 second quarter advantage turning it into a romp with the Falcons safely out in front 45-17 at the half.
There’s not much left to prove as St. Paul came away with a surprisingly easy 63-34 win letting it be known that the road to an NVL title may be going through Bristol this year.
Jade Udoh led the way with 23 points and hauled down 10 rebounds. Janessa Gonzalez knocked down 22 points from the perimeter showing how this pair of juniors can simply take over a game combining for 34 of the 45 first half points.
Naugatuck got a first-hand look at the Falcons dynamic duo last Tuesday when the Falcons held a special girls-boys double-header on a night that they acknowledged the over 100 sponsors and donors including the primary contributor the Robert Rosenheim Foundation that funded a Capital Campaign for improvements to St. Paul High School.
“We blessed and dedicated the new gymnasium named after Rev. Brian Monnerat in September when this project was completed,” said St. Paul President Cary Dupont.
“Tonight we wanted to acknowledge the supporters of the campaign especially the Rosenheim Foundation that has led to vast improvements throughout the campus including upgrades to McPhee Field.”
A large crowd was on hand to see the Greyhounds battle the Falcons and the game was tied 8-8 with 1:06 remaining in the opening quarter. That’s when the dynamic duo went to work.
Udoh (22 points, eight rebounds) came up with a steal at midcourt and took it to the rack then drained a pair of foul shots on the next trip down the floor. Gonzalez (14 points, five steals, five rebounds) went coast-to-coast on a steal making it a three-point play adding the foul shot to open a 13-8 advantage.
Naugatuck battled back from a 19-8 deficit to close the gap at the half 19-13. St. Paul came our running in the second half and the Greyhounds tried to keep pace to no avail.
What has the Falcons at the top of the league is not the fact that Udoh and Gonzalez can shut the door on their opponents, it’s the strong supporting cast that has shown the ability to keep the door closed.
“There are no off nights in the NVL,” said Mone. “There are a lot of competitive teams out there. We are in a tough two week stretch. We have a good one-two punch with Jade (Udoh) and Janessa (Gonzalez). But we are developing a good core of players who are finding their roles.”
Naugatuck cut the deficit to 19-17 in the opening minutes of the second period when Morgan Kolb began crashing the boards. Catherine Ciampi (4 points, 4 steals, 4 assists) and Emma Cretella (5 steals) went to work turning up the defensive pressure.
Olivia Heslin (5 points) hit a pull-up jumper in the lane and then completed a three-point play on a bucket off a steal and a foul shot. By the time Kailyn Bielecki knocked down a three, the Falcons were out in front 41-29 heading into the final quarter.
St. Paul is back in action this week at 8-2 Ansonia on Monday and finish out the week at home on Wednesday hosting Wolcott and on Friday against Waterbury Career.