Holy Cross, St. Paul girls to play for NVL title for fourth time in past seven finals

St. Paul needed to survive a frantic final minute against Torrington in Monday’s first NVL girls’ basketball tournament semifinal at Kennedy High School’s Jack Taglia Gymnasium.

Holy Cross used a dominating first quarter to put away Wolcott in the second semifinal.

No matter which way the semifinal round is analyzed, sliced or diced, the same answer emerges. It will once again be the Crusaders and Falcons for the NVL championship. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday back at Kennedy, weather permitting. 

Holy Cross is the top seed and three-time defending champion. St. Paul enters the final as the No. 3 seed.

History lesson: Holy Cross and St. Paul have met for the title on four different occasions starting in 2014, when the Crusaders prevailed over the Falcons, 48-38. The teams also played each other in 2017 (47-30, St. Paul); 2019 (57-51, St. Paul); and 2020 (63-55, Holy Cross). This will be the fourth time in the last seven NVL tournaments where the finals venue has been a sea of green and gold, or blue and red, depending on which team you’re rooting for.

Here’s more on the semifinal games:

No. 3 St. Paul 47, No. 2 Torrington 44: The Falcons didn’t do what was needed at the foul line late to ice the game, but their defense was strong on the final possession, and that’s what counted.

After Zola Cudjoe missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Raiders sprinted down the right side of the floor. Torrington tried to find an open 3-pointer, but instead found a St. Paul roadblock. The Raiders didn’t get a shot off and the Falcons celebrated.

Audrey Tice, Olivia Dahn and Rebecca Kelly each had 13 points for St. Paul. Tice converted four 3-pointers while Dahn nailed three of her own. Kelly was a factor on the backboards for the Falcons.

St. Paul may be without the services of senior guard Abbey Stanford against Holy Cross. Stanford went down with a rough-looking ankle injury in the fourth quarter of the Torrington game.

No. 1 Holy Cross 62, No. 4 Wolcott 48: Any hope the Eagles had of reversing the result of the teams’ regular season meeting was dashed by a 16-2 Crusader first quarter.

Starting with a Corrine Lomax steal and one-woman fast break layup on the opening possession – she’s a six-foot freshman, by the way – Holy Cross sprinted to an early lead and never looked back.

The Crusaders hounded the Eagles and when the underdogs had decent looks, they didn’t fall. Holy Cross led, 30-13, at halftime and cruised.

Of note, senior star Mya Zaccagnini went down with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and the Crusaders comfortably ahead. Her status for Wednesday’s game is unknown.

Sophomore Shania Howard led Holy Cross with 23 points. Zaccagnini scored 16 points before she left the game, and Lomax added 16 for the Crusaders.

GALLERY: Here are my photos from Monday’s semifinal games.

Captions: Holy Cross’ Mya Zaccagnini winds up splitting Wolcott’s full-court pressure on this play during Monday’s NVL girls’ basketball tournament semifinal game. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)