Holy Cross girls press their way past New Milford, return to state semifinal round


The pace in the first half of Monday night’s Holy Cross girls’ basketball’s Class L state quarterfinal home game against New Milford wasn’t to the home team’s liking.

The Crusaders and Green Wave were tied, 20-20. New Milford wanted to slow the game down and get the ball to its bigs, 5-foot-11 senior Ileana Feliz and 6-foot Jade Wallace, daughter of former Syracuse standout John Wallace.

Holy Cross wanted to book it up and down the floor and turn the game into a track meet.

“That’s just our game. That’s what we want to do,” said Crusader junior Isabella Oliver. “We want to pressure, pressure, pressure and get the ball back to us.”

“Our game is to push the ball, and we knew they couldn’t hang with us if we pushed the ball,” said senior star Mya Zaccagnini.

Push the ball was exactly what Holy Cross did. The Crusaders ran as much as they could and knocked off the Green Wave, a team from the South-West Conference, by a score of 56-42. Holy Cross is scheduled to play No. 3 E.O. Smith-Storrs on Friday night at 6 o’clock at New Britain High School’s Chick Shea Gymnasium.

The Crusaders gave up the first six points of the third quarter and fell behind, 28-21, before blowing past the Green Wave with a 15-0 spurt. Zaccagnini gave Holy Cross the lead for good at 30-28 on a blow-by for a layup. Zaccagnini’s three-point play, with the free throw following a New Milford timeout, gave Holy Cross a 33-28 lead with 3:32 left in the third quarter. Isabella Lombardo scored on a fast break, then Shania Howard converted a free throw with three minutes to go in the quarter for a 36-28 advantage.

The Crusaders changed the narrative of the game by putting the heat on the Green Wave guards.

“Pressuring the guards. Pressuring them, forcing them left, being in their face, and playing Holy Cross defense,” Zaccagnini said.

New Milford did score eight of the final 10 points of the quarter to forge a 38-36 score after three quarters in favor of Holy Cross. The Crusaders opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 surge. Oliver canned a 3-pointer, freshman 6-footer Corinne Lomax scored on a putback, Zaccagnini hit another 6-foot freshman, Quinn Barry, for a layup, and Zaccagnini picked up a steal and a layup during the run.

Holy Cross struggled from the foul line, which helped give New Milford some hope in the fourth quarter. The Crusaders prevailed by 14 points, but will want to shore up their free throw shooting against E.O. Smith in the semifinal. The Panthers, like the Green Wave, bring in a height advantage, led by front-court seniors Madison Hughes (6-foot-2) and Madeline Greene (6-1). Oliver believes that another effort like the one the Crusaders gave in the fourth quarter against the Green Wave could prove to be the difference.

“We have a good, solid chance if we play hard,” Oliver said.

GALLERY: Here are my photos from Monday’s game.

Caption: Holy Cross’ Mya Zaccagnini (11) defends against New Milford’s Sophie Barrett during Monday’s Class L quarterfinal. Corinne Lomax (34) is also focused on the ball, while Lariyah Booker (32) is fronting New Milford’s 5-foot-11 senior Ileana Feliz.