SMITHFIELD â€” Despite senior Brittany Bilodeauâ€™s ability to notch a team-leading 14 points, Tolman High started too slowly and eventually yielded a 41-24 triumph to Ponaganset High in a Red Division semifinal at the 26th annual Rhode Island Board of Girls Basketball Officials/Smithfield Boosters Club Holiday Classic at the Smithfield High gym late Wednesday afternoon.
The Tigers allowed seven first-half turnovers in the final 6:10 to enter the break down, 22-10, but did play well enough to keep it interesting through most of the final session.
In the end, junior Chandler Williams posted a contest-high 17 points, while classmate and forward Marisa Harding contributed eight and sophomore MacKenzie Obiurka six points for the Chieftains, a Division I-North squad that improved to 3-4 overall.
After Bilodeau, freshman Reggie Costa chipped in only six as Tolman â€“ a Division II-Central representative â€“ remained winless at 0-6.
â€śWe just made too many mental mistakes, and they resulted in turnovers,â€ť offered Tigersâ€™ veteran mentor Tammy Drape after the tilt. â€śWe were too sloppy. Weâ€™re down two bodies right now, as we lost our point guard, (senior captain) Jazmine Almeida, to a torn ACL during the soccer season, and we donâ€™t have another player who Iâ€™ll choose not to add.
â€śWe only have one returning starter, Brittany, and senior Ariana Wood saw some playing time last year, but not a ton,â€ť she added. â€śWe donâ€™t have a lot of varsity experience, so this is a building process â€¦ Frankly, weâ€™re not real good, but weâ€™re so young, how can you be? You could see some of the kids dying out there, but they kept playing pretty good defense. I also thought we rebounded the ball pretty well, especially in the second half.â€ť
With 6:58 remaining in the opening session, Ponaganset clung to a miniscule 8-6 advantage, but Williams drained a 14-footer at 6:07 and sophomore guard Jade Sylvia drained a three-pointer to initiate a 10-4 run in five minutes. And, down the stretch, Harding landed a turnaround baseline jumper with 67 ticks left and Obiurka a trey at the buzzer to lift the Chieftains to a 22-10 cushion at intermission.
Junior Rachel Tassoni (five points) canned another three-pointer 37 seconds into the final half, but the Tigers responded with a bucket of their own when Cosby took a steal in for the layup to make it 25-12. Later, Bilodeau dropped an off-balance hook shot to cut the deficit to 30-19 with 7:46 left, though Ponaganset rattled off nine straight points over the next 4:28 to ice it.
Highlights included Hardingâ€™s putback of a rebound, Williamsâ€™ fast-break layup off a turnover, a Williams trey and a Tassoni putback with 3:18 remaining. That made it 39-19.
All told, the Tigers suffered 13 second-half turnovers, but â€“ before Sara Keefe netted a one-hand jumper with four seconds left in regulation â€“ they had played Ponaganset rather evenly, losing just 17-14.
â€śâ€ťReggieâ€™s just a freshman, and sheâ€™s raw, but thereâ€™s some talent there,â€ť Drape noted. â€śAicha (Kone) is a freshman as well. Weâ€™ve had some kids walk in and think playing varsity basketball is like a rec league, and Iâ€™m trying to get through to them thereâ€™s more to this than shooting and dribbling. Still, theyâ€™re figuring it out. Right now, Iâ€™m trying to keep it really simple, tell them we want our defense to propel the offense.â€ť
With the win, Ponaganset now will face Burrillville, a 54-23 victor over Davies, in the Red Division championship game at 7:30 p.m., Friday. Tolman, meanwhile, will take on the Patriots in the divisional consolation game earlier, at 4:30 p.m.