Holy Cross girls beat St. Paul in battle of NVL titans

Monday night’s NVL girls hoop showdown had everything you wanted, going into the game.
St. Paul entered McDonald Gymnasium, more commonly known as The Pit, with a perfect 12-0 record. Holy Cross came in with as many wins and just one loss (13-1), and a No. 9 ranking in the New Haven Register/GameTimeCT Top 10 media poll. 
The Crusaders took the drama out of the battle with the Falcons on Monday and walked away with a 67-50 victory. The hosts improved to 14-1 on the season with the victory.
Actually, Holy Cross never did much walking. When there wasn’t a timeout, an end of a quarter or a halftime break, the Crusaders were running. They came after the Falcons with relentless pressure and forced nearly 20 first half turnovers. They attacked the offensive backboards with gusto, creating second and third chances.

Holy Cross’ Rashana Siders (24) and Kaitlyn Grimshaw (11)
look to force a turnover with defensive pressure.

Things were going so well that junior Idalis Miranda, the smallest player on the floor, grabbed an offensive rebound in the lane and scored. Don’t let her size fool you by the way. Miranda is a heck of a ballplayer.
Holy Cross didn’t shoot the ball well, but it did many other things well. St. Paul, on the other hand, had an off night and paid the price.
Miranda led the Crusaders with 19 points, and her 3-pointer in the third quarter gave her 1,000 for her career, which started at Chase Collegiate.
“I didn’t know I was going to make it,” said Miranda, a sometimes reluctant shooter.
Miranda said head coach Frank Lombardo has encouraged her to shoot more, and if she continues to do that with the confidence she displayed Monday, the rest of the NVL and Class M better watch out.
Besides Miranda, Rashana Siders tallied 19 points and Century McCartney added 18 points.
“We have three great ball-handlers in Idalis, Rashana and Century,” Lombardo said.
On the glass, the Crusaders had Caitlin Cipriano to grab boards.
“She’s our anchor on defense, and she rebounds like an animal,” Lombardo said.
Holy Cross burst out to an early lead, and even an early deficit seems large against the pressure of the Crusaders.
“I give credit to them,” St. Paul head coach Joe Mone said of Holy Cross. “They came out intense right from the beginning.”
The Crusaders led 17-12 at the half, then extended the advantage to 32-25 by halftime. In the third quarter, Holy Cross turned up the heat and outscored St. Paul 26-13 to build a 20-point lead, 58-38.
Some big problems for the Falcons were foul trouble for point guard Brigid Johndrow, other players not playing the way they are capable, and unforced mistakes.
“When you turn it over unforced, it’s really bad,” Mone said.
St. Paul lost for the first time Monday night, but Mone isn’t worried.
“I found out we’re alright, regardless of the score,” Mone said.

St. Paul’s Brigid Johndrow backs down
against Holy Cross’ Idalis Miranda.

 The Falcons just had a bad night, and it was a bad time to have such a performance. St. Paul is better than it was on Monday, and it will learn from the loss. Johndrow had a team-high 14 points before she fouled out in the fourth quarter. Lizzy Cretella and Stephanie Speaker each scored 12 points.

What was learned on Monday?
– Holy Cross is a very good team. With three capable ball-handlers/scorers, solid rebounders, relentless defensive pressure and a deep lineup, the Crusaders are the NVL favorite and a Class M contender.
– St. Paul is better than what it showed on Monday. The Falcons had a bad night, which happens to everyone. St. Paul has plenty of senior leadership, and it will be back. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons reach the NVL Tournament final.

What’s next?
– Holy Cross goes to Derby on Wednesday night for a 7 o’clock game.
– St. Paul continues a tough week Wednesday night at Torrington in a 7 o’clock contest.