PAWTUCKET — Central Falls’s biggest win of the year also turned out to be Tolman’s most disappointing loss of the season.
Down by 11 points at the break, the Warriors staged a comeback that saw senior forward Shariela Jiminez toss in 16 of her game-high 20 points and help pave the way to a 55-44 victory in their hard-fought Division II-North duel at the Tigers’ Donaldson Gymnasium.
The visitors, who trudged into the game with three losses in their last four games, looked like they were heading for another defeat when their 15 first-half turnovers and 14 points from Danai Porter, the Tigers’ talented guard, helped the hosts grab a 29-17 command.
When the second half started, the Tigers quickly boosted their lead to 13, but that’s when the Warriors began their long road back.
They responded with the next seven points to cut their deficit into single digits, and after Porter got the Tigers back on the board with a baseline jumper, Jiminez answered with back-to-back jumpers to make it a 34-31 game with 9:14 on the clock.
With 7:33 to go, the Warriors made it a 37-35 game when Jiminez and Anjelique Cooley clicked on consecutive fast break layups off their own steals at midcourt, and with 6:02 left, they tied the score on a pair of free throws by Sasha Gonzalez.
The Tigers reclaimed their lead with 5:43 to go when Ariana Wood put back an offensive rebound, but little did anybody know at the time that her basket would be the Tigers’ last points from the floor.
The visitors scored the next four points from the free throw line to take the lead for good, with a pair of free throws from newcomer Anairis Rodriguez with 3:38 to play doing the deed.
A layup and a jumper by Jiminez made it a 47-41 game, and after Tolman cut its deficit to three when Jazmine Almeida swished three free throws after getting fouled on a three-point attempt, Kayla Camara buried a pair of free throws with 2:43 on the clock and then stuck a dagged in the Tigers’ comeback hopes with a wide-open three-pointer with 1:30 to play.
“We needed this win,” said first-year C.F. coach Jayar Santos. “Every game from here on out is a playoff game for us. We got a couple of players back on our team that we hadn’t had all year and we’re just trying to find some chemistry. Tonight, I think we found it in the second half.”
Santos credited two things to the Warriors’ second-half turnaround. In the second half, he threw a box-and-one on Porter after she torched the Warriors in the first half, and Porter, who was closely guarded by Cooley, only managed to produce the two points she scored on her jumper the rest of the way.
“We played some box-and-one on their best player and it seemed to work,” noted Santos. “But our turnovers were the big thing. We had to limit them in the second half if we were going to come back.”
While the Warriors had just eight in the second half to finish the night with 23, the Tigers had 16 in the second half after committing just 11 in the initial 16 minutes. Seven of the turnovers came in the final 4:37 when the Warriors outscored them, 16-3.
“Hats off to C.F.,” added Tolman coach Tammy Drape, whose team’s 12-2 run midway through the first half helped claim a 22-13 lead. “They deserved to win.”
In addition to Jiminez’s fine night, Camara and Cooley each scored 11 points, and Porter, Almeida (14 points), and Wood (nine) accounted for the bulk of the Tigers’ points.
Both teams return to action with home games on Friday at 7 p.m. The Warriors, who are now 7-6, will entertain Burrillville, while the Tigers, who fell to 3-10 and have lost seven games by eight or less points this season, will host Classical.