BRISTOL - If surviving some rocky, sloppy play in the first quarter, settling in and eventually cruising to postseason victories is the formula for a potential St. Paul state championship, Falcons girls basketball fans have to be loving the recipe.
After committing 11 turnovers in the first half, the third-seeded Falcons stabilized and used a dominant third quarter to cruise past No. 11 Bloomfield 84-50 in a Tuesday night Class S state quarterfinal game.
“We’ve been working hard all season for this tournament,” Falcons senior captain Catherine Ciampi said. “We’ve had a good season, but this is really what we’ve been working for. All our hard work is paying off, and we’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing until we get to where we want.”
Despite the shaky first half, the Falcons (22-2) built a 34-27 lead at halftime.
They took terrific care of the ball in the third period with just two turnovers and used a 24-13 run to take control over Bloomfield (16-7).
Using a variety of moves, Falcons junior Jade Udoh - who scored a game-high 29 points, added 13 rebounds and six assists and shot 11-of-12 at the free throw line - scored the first three buckets of the second half. Udoh finished 5-of-6 from the field in the quarter.
And when Ciampi had the ball in the paint on the Falcons’ next possession, she finished off glass with her left hand and was fouled, drawing the biggest reaction from a loud, raucous home crowd.
Ciampi drained the ensuing free throw to give St. Paul a 43-29 lead with less than five minutes left in the quarter.
From there, the rout was on.
Morgan Kolb hit four consecutive free throws, Udoh drained a putback of her own miss and a 3-pointer from Jessa Gonzalez, who grabbed her own miss in the lane and dribbled out to the arc, gave the Falcons a 20-point lead en route to a 58-40 lead after the third period. Gonzalez finished with 25 points.
In the fourth quarter, the Falcons outscored the Warhawks 26-10 to earn their first semifinals berth since 2014.
“I honestly thought that Bloomfield was gonna be the hardest team to play in the tournament,” said Kolb, who scored 13 points. “It was very challenging, but I think as a team we stepped up, definitely. This is the best team I think we’ve played this season.”
Following his team’s second-round Class S state tournament win, Joe Mone commented that fans would see a litany of turnovers in the first period of the quarterfinal game, as both teams would be overexcited.
The St. Paul coach was right, as the Falcons and Warhakws had nine combined giveaways in the first 2:25 of the game and 20 turnovers in the first half.
But St. Paul eventually settled in, and the Falcons (23-2) will play No. 7 Trinity Catholic (20-5) in the semifinals March 8 at a time and location to be determined.
“I think Bloomfield and Trinity Catholic are definitely the two hardest [opponents] we were gonna see and are gonna see,” Ciampi said. “It was a good game. In the beginning, they really pressed us, and we got flustered. But our fans helped, and we pulled together and got the job done.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or