LINCOLN – There are wins and there are BIG wins.
For Davies Tech, this one has to be listed under the latter category.
With their playoff fate in Division III more than likely being determined in the final week of the league season, the Patriots scored a crucial victory over North Smithfield on Tuesday night by eking out a thrilling 37-36 decision on their home court. Sophomore Waleska Kelly fueled a total team effort by Davies, netting 12 points along with nine rebounds, seven steals and six blocks.
How important was this triumph for Davies?
With four games remaining in the regular season and the top six teams advancing to the playoffs, the seventh-place Patriots improved their record to 6-8 and a half a game behind sixth-place Central, which lost to Rocky Hill on Tuesday and is now 7-8. Davies last four contests are against one team that’s below them in the standings (Rocky Hill) and three others that it’s played competitive (Shea, Bishop Keough and Central).
The Knights’ game is the final tilt of the season on Feb. 23.
“Coming into tonight, I was optimistic that we could beat them. We had a good game against North Smithfield the last time at their place and played them well to the end,” said Davies coach Joe Handy, whose team dropped a close 43-35 verdict to N.S. back on Jan. 4. “I thought we could play with them. This win was huge. For us, we now face the two teams that beat us by a point (Central and Shea). It’s opened up a little. This is huge for us. This was a big one for the girls. They played great.”
Davies Tech snapped a two-game losing streak that included defeats to first-place Juanita Sanchez and second-place Middletown, and also put a halt to a four-game win streak by the fourth-place Northmen, who fell to 9-5.
While the Patriots played a strong game from start to finish, it was their ability to handle the pressure in the closing minutes that may have been the difference in the outcome. Tied at 29, junior Rosaliz Torres (six points) put Davies ahead for good by nailing a 3-pointer with 6:40 left.
Davies was able to increase its cushion to five (36-31) with a little more than three minutes left on a layup from junior Kaitlin Flynn (11 points, seven steals). North Smithfield eventually made it a one-point game on a 3-pointer from junior Keila Strick (13 points) with 1:10 remaining.
The two teams tangled in a physical battle the closing minute. North Smithfield senior Sidra Ethier was called for traveling after she stumbled on an offensive rebound with 10.9 ticks left.
A long heave by Flynn on the in-bound’s pass was a little off the mark, but it rolled out of bounds on the other side of the court. North Smithfield tried to make good use of the turnover, but a steal by Flynn with two seconds left would spoil that opportunity. After the ball went out of bounds with .1 left on the clock, North Smithfield had one final chance but a 3-pointer by Strick would fall short.
“They are showing the poise that they didn’t have early on,” Handy said. “The first game against them we gave the ball away three times at the end of the game and they ended up capitalizing off that. This time here we wanted to make sure we controlled the ball and understood where we were in the game. (We) were ahead and (we) wanted to protect.”
North Smithfield coach Alisha Brannon was not surprised with Davies’ effort, especially after the Patriots’ close 40-33 setback to Middletown last Friday.
“We came in tonight and I knew it was going to be tough,” Brannon said. “They are stacked and they only lost to Middletown by seven (points). They only lost to (third-place) Bishop Keough by 10 (points). I knew it was going to be a tough game coming in. They are a good team. They have a good coach. They wanted it more (tonight).”
The two rivals were locked in a tight game in the opening half with never more than three points separating them. North Smithfield tied the score at 13 with 4:31 remaining on a 3-pointer from Pam Denomme (five points). The squads were deadlocked two more times before the half was complete with Davies senior Christina Depina making it 17-all on a putback. After senior Amanda Guilmette (four points) put North Smithfield up by a deuce with 1:50 left, Kelly’s layup 30 seconds later would tie things again before the break at 19-19, a score that would stand at the break.
Trailing by a score of 23-21 early in the second half, Davies managed to take a six-point advantage (29-23) with eight unanswered points. The streak came after Handy called a timeout after witnessing an easy layup by junior Tara Larson (four points) to give the Northmen the lead.
Handy’s timeout speech appeared to work.
“It was just to re-focus them,” he said. ‘We don’t have a big team. We have to play tough inside. If we are not in the right position we are going to get beat. I just wanted to reflect to them that we had to make sure that we were shifting because the weak side was dropping.”
North Smithfield tied the game at 29 by responding with a 6-0 run that featured buckets from Ethier and Denomme and a pair of free throws from Strick.
The last six minutes turned into an edge-of-your-seat affair with the Patriots prevailing with their big win.
Both teams resume action on Friday with North Smithfield traveling to Our Lady of Fatima and Davies at Rocky Hill.
NORTH SMITHFIELD (36) – Jamie LaFazia 3 0-0 6, Keila Strick 5 2-6 13, Tara Larson 2 0-0 4, Sidra Ethier 2 0-0 4, Amanda Guilmette 2 0-0 4, Pamela Denomme 2 0-0 5. Totals – 16 2-6 36
DAVIES TECH (37) – Elizabeth Arruda 2 0-0 4, Christina Depina 2 0-0 4, Kaitlin Flynn 5 0-2 11, Waleska Kelly 5 1-3 12, Rosaliz Torres 2 0-0 6. Totals – 16 1-5 37
Halftime – 19-19. 3-point goals – NS (2): Strick, Denomme. D (3): Flynn, Torres 2.