BRISTOL - St. Paul sophomore guard Janessa Gonzalez started the scoring off for the Falcons with 12 points in the first quarter on four 3-pointers against Naugatuck.
It was only fitting that Gonzalez would finish what she started as the primary scorer for the Falcons, as she scored nine huge points in the final quarter and 25 points total as the St. Paul girls basketball team escaped with a 43-34 win on Wednesday night.
“I was trying to take over the game,” Gonzalez said. “It was getting out of control and we were throwing the ball away a lot, so I knew I had to take over the game and try to score the ball.”
The tempo was set in the first quarter. Down low, the Falcons dominated the offensive boards in the first half but didn’t have much to show for it points wise as most of their points came behind the arc.
In the second quarter, Gonzalez scored just four points, then was shut down in the third quarter as the Greyhounds had Mia Rotatori keying in on her playing out of their zone.
With it Naugatuck cut a 17-point deficit to eight points with Gonzalez struggling and pulled it as close as three points early in the fourth quarter.
It was the guard play that was the difference in the first half.
“Missing that many offensive layups and even missing some of the offensive boards, it does have an effect on the game and the way it did end up,” St. Paul assistant coach Chelsea Mone said. “If you make a few more of those baskets then obviously it’s a whole different game. We just couldn’t put it in the hole.
After a slow start by the Falcons as a team, Gonzalez caught fire from long range.
She hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter and St. Paul outscored Naugatuck 17-6.
Late in the first, the Greyhounds had installed Rotatori out of their zone to key in on Gonzalez, making sure she couldn’t singlehandedly beat them.
And she didn’t, but the Falcons got strong minutes out of Adrianna Lopez, Molly Hooks and Emma Cretella as well in the first half.
Lopez made her presence felt on both ends of the floor. She ran down the Greyhounds on fast breaks, put in the extra effort to grab an offensive rebound and get a lay-up in the second quarter. At the end of the first half the Falcons held a comfortable 28-11 lead.
It wouldn’t stay that way, as Naugatuck came out playing with an attitude in the third quarter and made sure Gonzalez wouldn’t beat it.
With Gonzalez not having open shot opportunities, the Falcons struggled to generate any offensive momentum.
Taylor Crawford kept St. Paul alive with all four points in the third, as Naugatuck outscored the Falcons 13-4 in the quarter with five different players chiming in with points.
In the fourth the Greyhounds’ momentum continued.
Rotatori got going on offense, scoring the first five points of the fourth quarter and Naugatuck was down 32-29.
With her three-point shot not being open, Gonzalez switched up her game and took on the defense off the dribble.
“I try to mix it up,” Gonzalez said. “I like shooting the three, but when I’m guarded up there then I try to go to the basket more.”
Seven of her nine fourth quarter points came at the free throw stripe as she flashed her speed, consistently beating Greyhounds defenders to the basket and forcing a foul.
In a game that looked to be over early, Naugatuck gave the Falcons a scare, but Gonzalez found a way to get her team another win on the year as St. Paul advanced to 6-1.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or email@example.com