BRISTOL - The St. Paul girls basketball team was able to dispatch Torrington long before their Friday night matchup reached its conclusion. Senior forward Jade Udoh intercepted a pass and turned into a layup for the inaugural bucket of the game, which would become a microcosm for the Falcons’ whole performance.
The Falcons took a 30-point lead into halftime against the Raiders, which allowed them to rest their starts for the majority of the second half.
“I think we moved the ball around well,” senior guard Janessa Gonzalez said. “I think we looked for the extra pass each time. We were pushing the ball up the floor, which made it easy to get some fast break points.”
Much of the Falcons’ scoring in the first half came on the run as their defense held Torrington to 11 points in the first two quarters. The Raiders greatly struggled to beat St. Paul’s full-court press, which led to many turnovers and easy baskets.
“We try to do it against pretty much everybody to see where we are,” head coach Joe Mone said. “Sometimes we do it for a long stretch, sometimes it’s just here or there to throw a different look [at the opposing team]. That’s the way we’ve played since I’ve been here, up and down the floor.”
The Falcons ended many Torrington possessions before they crossed the midcourt line. They opened the game with five steals in the first four minutes and led by 13 after one quarter. The Raiders only scored five points in the second quarter, all of which came from the foul line.
“I think we got the traps done well and off of those got turnovers and we got them for easy layups,” Gonzalez said. “When we press it helps us to score better.”
Pressing is not new for Mone’s teams and, along with the impact of the defensive pressure, he uses it as a way for his players to set the tone in a game. Breaking a press requires fast thinking and good decision making, which at times can be hard to find at the high school level. If the press continues to be effective, the mental affects it can have on opposing players is just impactful.
“I think it definitely tires them out [if] they don’t have a deep bench and they aren’t able to keep up,” Udoh said. “Also it can possibly get them into foul trouble and it just kind of puts the game in our hands because we’re running the show and the intensity.”
Defense has been crucial for the 6-2 Falcons this season. The only times they allowed 50 or more points in a game were in their two losses to Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe, while averaging 32.3 points allowed in their wins.
“[The press] is very important to us because if we can’t create our offense in a regular set it helps us if we can get some steals and easy points there so we don’t have to run our sets each time,” Gonzalez said.
St. Paul’s next opportunity to stifle an opposing offense will come Monday when it hosts Naugatuck and a win will require a strong defensive effort. The Greyhounds have won seven consecutive games, are averaging 58 points per game and have not scored fewer than 50 points since their season opener when they scored 49.
“Sometimes we play teams that want to slow it down, a lot of times the press isn’t so much so we can get 100 steals and layups,” Mone said. “We just want people to play at our pace and how we play regardless of what they want to do so we just force the tempo.”