PAWTUCKET – Nina Morey isn’t about to complain about a win after her Mount St. Charles squad held on for a down-to-the-last possession 33-31 decision against Tolman on Friday.
That said, the MSC head coach came away with the understanding that the Mounties were very fortunate to waltz out of the Donaldson Memorial Gymnasium with the higher point total.
“I’m glad that we had the ability to hang on,” said Morey, “but a little more time for (Tolman) and it may have been a different story.”
The outcome wasn’t sealed until Brittany Bilodeau, a reserve guard on Tolman, tossed up a prayer of an 18-footer as the final horn sounded. Bilodeau’s last gasp didn’t even reach the rim as MSC’s Paige LaBreche applied enough pressure to remove the drama out of Tolman’s last chance.
“We’re lucky and glad to come out of here with the victory,” said a clearly relieved Morey.
With the win the Mounties improve to 3-1 in Division II-North, 6-2 overall. The loss drops Tammy Drape’s Tigers to 3-3 in league play, 3-5 overall. MSC’s Maria Saia led all scorers with 16 points while pulling down 10 rebounds. Danai Porter topped the Tigers with 11 points while Jenna Ayala enjoyed a productive outing, particularly on the defensive end (eight points, 16 rebounds, seven blocks, five steals).
Both sides had plenty of chances down the stretch to either salt away the win (MSC) or come back and force overtime (Tolman). The Mounties missed a pair of 1-and-1 tries in the final 16 seconds that would have forced the Tigers to go for a 3-pointer. Tolman also had free throw issues late (two misses with 1:11 that would have tied things at 33-all) and also added a killer turnover with 27 ticks left when Ayala lost control of the ball on her way to the basket.
Despite the closing stages unfolding in excruciating fashion, Drape remains optimistic. The Tigers welcomed back guard Maria Lopera to the starting lineup Friday after the senior suffered a serious knee injury against Central Falls last month. Lopera was cleared to practice only a few days ago, as her return coincided with Drape choosing to sit one her guards for disciplinary reasons.
The Tigers spent the first half in an offensive slump, shooting just 6-of-18 and committing 14 turnovers on their way to trailing 21-15 at the break. On the flip side Tolman had a hard time containing Saia, who had 12 points by recess.
With her team crying out for some sort of spark, Drape went with a 3-2 zone that helped get the Tigers back in the contest. The Mounties opened the second half in a 1-for-15 spell, which helped the home team draw even at 24-24 with 8:30 remaining.
“I’m going to take the blame for that,” said Drape when asked about the effectiveness of Tolman’s zone. “We should have made the adjustment a little quicker.”
Mount St. Charles scored the next five points to go up 29-24, but three free throws by Porter helped bring the Tigers right back to within shouting distance. The teams alternated scores before engaging in a “here it is, you take it” stretch to conclude matters.
“This is a lesson learned,” said Drape. “I told them they worked very hard in the second half.”
MOUNT ST. CHARLES (33): Paige LaBreche 0 0-0 0, Lauren Mallon 1 0-2 2, Adriana Maurano 3 1-3 7, Taylor Messier 1 0-0 2, Noreen Mulledy 1 0-2 2, Tara Murray 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Rossi 2 0-0 4, Maria Saia 6 4-7 16. Totals: 14 5-14 33.
TOLMAN (31): Jenna Ayala 3 2-2 8, Cassie Gustafson 0 0-0 0, Crystal Figueroa 2 0-0 5, Danai Porter 2 7-11 11, Mallory Moniz 0 0-0 0, Brittany Bilodeau 0 0-0 0, Maria Lopera 3 1-5 7, Ariana Wood 0 0-0 0. Totals: 10 10-18 31.
Halftime: MSC 21-15.
Three-point field goals: T 1 (Crystal Figueroa).
JV: MSC 35-30.