Lauralton Hall basketball wins key game over Pomperaug
MILFORD — Though still early in the season, the Lauralton Hall girls’ basketball team felt a sense of urgency. In the Crusaders’ eyes, this was a must-win game.
They had just suffered back-to-back losses in the Mercy Holiday tournament.
Also this was their home opener, and they were facing Pomperaug, perhaps their toughest South-West Conference opponent, and a team that was seeking some revenge from a loss to Lauralton Hall last month.
Behind 19 points from junior Nicola Matero, the Crusaders, ranked No. 10 in the New Haven Register Top 10 poll, bounced back with a 61-50 win Tuesday over the No. 8 Panthers.
“We talked and said we can’t have another loss,” Matero said. “We can’t be 3-3. We’re a winning program.”
After opening the season with 21 points in a win over Trinity Catholic, Matero had been pretty quiet offensively.
She broke out Tuesday, including five 3-pointers, and helped the Crusaders (4-2) to a 31-22 lead at halftime.
“Matero was the leader I was waiting to see,” Lauralton Hall coach Alessa Podolak-Lazcowski said. “She hit some big shots, and we fed off of it.”
Sophomore Olivia Levey added a presence inside for the Crusaders, controlling the rebounding and scoring 15 points.
But Pomperaug (5-2) answered in the third quarter when guard Gabby Holness (team-high 17 points) sparked a 12-3 run with a layup.
The Panthers eventually tied the game at 41 on a basket by Kaitlyn Nadler with just over 7 minutes left in the game. Lauralton Hall’s full-court pressure seemed to catch up with the Panthers at that point.
The Crusaders held Pomperaug scoreless for the next 5 minutes and went on an 11-0 run, pulling away.
“In the first half, we dug ourselves in a big hole,” Pomperaug coach Joe Fortier said. “We used a lot of energy in that third quarter to get ourselves back in it.”
Michelle DeSantis, the daughter of former Quinnipiac coach Joe DeSantis hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to break the tie and a pair of free throws by Levey gave the Crusaders a 52-43 lead with 2:34 remaining. Then free throws down the stretch sealed the win for the Crusaders.
“You have to know what a loss feel likes to appreciate the wins,” said Podolak-Lazcowski, referring to the Crusaders snapping their two-game losing streak.
The Crusaders sweep the season series. In the first meeting, Lauralton Hall had a huge second half and went on to win 47-41.
“Hopefully, we’ll see them again in the SWC tournament,” Fortier said. “Like the saying goes, it’s hard to beat a good team three times. So we’ll be ready.”