WOONSOCKET – On a night the offense struggled mightily, East Providence’s defense rose to the occasion, especially at the end of the opening half, and fetched the Townies an important Division I-North victory over Woonsocket on Tuesday night.
The Townies’ ‘D’ forced the Novans to commit the bulk of their 20 turnovers and played a big role in an 18-point run in the first half by keeping their hosts scoreless for eight-plus minutes, and in the process, helping produce a 54-39 triumph.
“Our defense continues to impress me this season,” said E.P. coach Mike Solitro, whose team improved to 4-2 in the division, and with the win, took over sole ownership of third place in the standings. “We run a lot of different things at some teams, and tonight, that’s what we did, and the kids did a great job.”
Down by a 12-8 score with 8:29 minutes to play in the opening half, the Townies started to hound the Novans with their press and create their share of turnovers.
And after layups by Alyssa Dias and Mary Monagle tied the score with 7:15 on the clock, Monagle buried a three-pointer from the corner with 6:33 left to give E.P. a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Dias, a senior co-captain, concluded the contest with a game-high 23 points, nine of them coming during the Townies’ 18-point blitz that helped them cop a 26-14 lead at the break. It was her third straight game of 20-plus points and follows the career-high 26 she scored last Friday against St. Raphael.
Junior Taylor Wiggins was also good for nine points and a dozen rebounds, senior Shania Connor had eight points and as many boards, and Monagle, a junior, was also a sparkplug defensively with five steals.
As for the Novans, who dipped to 4-3 in the league (6-4 overall), they went into the game minus their top scoring threat, senior forward Kailey Fugere, who was home sick with the flu.
But Woonsocket coach George Coderre refused to use Fugere’s absence as an excuse for the loss, and instead, gave credit to the players he had on the floor, such as senior Caitlyn Marcoux, who had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and junior Shade Olowookere, who started in Fugere’s place and scored 11 points.
And senior standout Michelle Brayboy, who was harassed by the Townies’ tenacious ‘D’ all night long, still managed to score eight points and contribute seven assists.
“When you don’t have your entire lineup, it’s important for everybody to assume added responsibilities and kids to come off the bench and step up,” he added. “I thought, for the most part, we did a pretty good job of that today.
“You hate to lose any game like this, but there were definitely some positives to come out of this. We saw Shade really step up today. Even though she didn’t score, Amanda Sloan did some good things defensively and moved the ball offensively. I was proud of Allyson (Cartier). She did a good job of keeping pressure on the boards.”
While Fugere’s absence from the game was one of the stories of the night, so was E.P.’s abysmal shooting, which saw them shoot a woeful 25 percent (20-for-78) from the floor and 52 percent (12-for-23) from the free-throw line.
They were a hair under 30 percent (11-for-37) shooting in the first half and missed more than their share of easy baskets inside, and things seemed to only get worse in the second half.
“It was one of the things I just told the kids,” remarked Solitro. “I said, ‘We have to make layups early in the game because that takes some of the pressure off you offensively. We got some good looks early on, but we just missed a bunch of them inside.”
Thankfully, the visitors’ defense stepped up near the end of the opening half to help keep the Villa Novans off the board, and while Dias sparkled offensively, she also had three of her four steals in the game during E.P.’s 18-point run.
“(E.P.) did a nice job of changing things up and not allowing us to get comfortable,” said Coderre. “They did a really nice job, they really did.”
In the second half, the Novans did their best to get back into the game. They scored seven of the half’s first nine points and had their deficit down to six (30-24) with 11:12 still left in the game and nine (40-31) with 4:32 on the clock.
But a pair of layups by Wiggins, sandwiched around a layup by Connor, put the visitors’ lead back into double figures with a little more than three minutes to play and dampen the Novans’ comeback hopes.
“Give (Woonsocket) credit,” remarked Solitro. “They came out in the second half, and I told my kids, ‘This is a team that has a lot of fight.’ George instills that in them. When they cut it down to nine, I got a little nervous on the sidelines, but we hit a couple of big shots to give us a little more breathing room.”
Both teams are back in action with home games against division foes on Friday at 7 p.m. The Novans will host Lincoln in a “Coaches vs. Cancer” benefit game, while the Townies will entertain second-place Barrington (5-1) in a featured matchup.
EAST PROVIDENCE (54): Lindsee Allienello 0 0-0 0, Mary Monagle 2 0-0 5, Alyssa Dias 9 4-5 23, Shania Connor 3 2-5 8, Thomeeka Speaks 2 1-2 5, Jailyn Kilgore 0 0-0 0, Taylor Wiggins 3 3-5 9, Brittany Crosby 0 2-2 2, Bianca Vails 1 0-4 2. Totals: 20 12-23 54.
WOONSOCKET (39): Michelle Brayboy 3 0-1 8, Allyson Cartier 1 1-2 3, Caitlyn Marcoux 6 0-0 15, Amanda Sloan 0 0-0 0, Shade Olowookere 4 3-6 11, Andrea Moyen 0 0-0 0, Amanda Alexion 0 0-0 0, Ariana Roman 0 0-0 0, Paige Houle 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 4-10 39.
Halftime: East Providence, 26-14. Three-point field goals: East Providence 2 (Monagle, Dias), Woonsocket 5 (Marcoux 3, Brayboy 2).