Holy Cross combo of experience, depth, Zaccagnini too much in NVL final

The Holy Cross girls basketball team has experience, depth, and it has one of the best juniors in the state.

In Thursday night’s NVL tournament final at Kennedy High School, all three of those assets were on display for the top-seeded Crusaders (23-0) in a 76-56 victory over second-seeded Seymour, most of all junior point guard Mya Zaccagnini. Zaccagnini erupted for 35 points against the Wildcats with 19 in the first half and 16 in the second half. That’s pretty darn consistent.

It was the third straight NVL tournament title for Holy Cross. St. Paul was the last team to win the NVL tournament that wasn’t Holy Cross.

So, that experience factor: besides the huge night from Zaccagnini, seniors Cayla Howard and Nyasia Smith scored 14 points apiece while fellow senior Ella Atkins took on the monumental task of guarding Seymour senior star Kenzie Sirowich. Atkins, who was named the top defender in the NVL, acquitted herself well against the talented Sirowich, who finished with a team-high 23 points.

Depth: Besides the offensive impact provided by Zaccagnini (35), Cayla Howard (14) and Smith (14), there were the contributions of sophomore Rachel Healey and freshman Shania Howard. Healey scored eight points and provided a six-foot presence under the basket while Shania Howard added five points from her guard position. The Crusaders played 11 different girls against the Wildcats. Zaccagnini was named tournament MVP while Cayla Howard and Atkins both made the All-NVL tournament team. Head coach Frank Lombardo won his 15th NVL title.

After leading by five points at halftime, Holy Cross used a big third quarter, 26-13, to pull away from Seymour (19-4). The Crusaders celebrated their NVL tournament title, but as Zaccagnini told The Hoop Zone’s Jason Levy after the game, that’s the second of three goals this team has.

The third goal, competing for a state championship, begins next Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the Class M state tournament. Holy Cross is the top seed and plays the winner of No. 16 Watertown and No. 17 Plainfield. Watertown is one of the other six NVL schools that join the Crusaders in Class M. The other NVL schools are Oxford, Ansonia, Woodland, Wolcott and Seymour. Woodland and Wolcott play each other in the first round.

Photo caption: Holy Cross junior point guard Mya Zaccagnini earned tournament MVP honors after dropping 35 points in the NVL final win over Seymour on Thursday night. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2021 file photo)