St. Paul girls return to state semifinal round

The last time a winter state tournament reached the semifinal round, back in 2019, the St. Paul girls basketball team was one of the last four standing standing in Class S.

Fast forward to the 2022 Class MM state tournament, and the Falcons (18-5) are back in the semifinal round. After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fifth-seeded St. Paul clinched its spot in Class MM’s final four with a 61-36 home win over No. 13 Northwestern Regional on Monday evening in the Rev. Brian Monnerat Gymnasium.

The Highlanders, who play in the Berkshire League, had the game tied at 8-8 in the first quarter before the Falcons closed on a 9-2 run. St. Paul didn’t look back after that, leading by a 35-16 margin at halftime. The Falcons will play top-seeded Sacred Heart Academy on Friday at a time and location to be announced.

Nadia Riemer struck for 20 points for the Falcons, including six 3-pointers. Zoey Rubins (two 3-pointers) had 11 points while Izzy Leggett added nine points. St. Paul got four points apiece from Audrey Tice, Sam Naples and Emily Ronalter. Ronalter played for Sacred Heart before it closed down at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.

Up next: Sacred Heart Academy, St. Paul’s semifinal opponent, rolled to a 19-1 regular season record and breezed through the SCC tournament with wins over Sheehan (50-27), West Haven (62-39) and Daniel Hand (55-37). The Sharks defeated No. 16 Kolbe Cathedral, 53-39, after a first round bye, but had to struggle to get past ninth-seeded Berlin, 34-29, in their quarterfinal game Monday.

SHA (24-1) is led by senior tri-captain Rosa Rizzitelli, who was first team All-SCC and the conference tournament MVP. Senior tri-captain Carina Ciampi was a first team All-SCC performer as well. Sophomore Lauren Thompson earned second team All-SCC honors.