PROVIDENCE — In most of the games it’s played this season, Bishop Keough High starts slowly, suffers from early foul issues, but then surges over the final 10-12 minutes to claim a win.
When facing Hope High in a Division III tilt on Tuesday afternoon, the opposite occurred.
The Koalas went exactly nine minutes and 13 seconds of the second half without scoring a single point, though they had built enough of a cushion to eventually snatch a 33-26 victory over the Blue Wave at its own gymnasium.
“We’re a team that always gets into foul trouble in the first five, six or seven minutes, but we didn’t here; we usually come on like gangbusters down the stretch, but we didn’t do much in the end against Hope,” head coach John Roque stated after his squad improved to 6-3 overall and 4-3 in league play. “Late in this one, the fouls started to rear its ugly head, like it usually does for us in the first half.
“Our rebounding is also killing us,” he added. “Last year, we had a 6-1 center who was always averaging a double-double (in points and snagging boards), but she graduated. (On Tuesday), our center wasn’t here (as freshman Analyse Valle stayed home to study for mid-terms.
“The good news was we had (senior tri-captain and swing) Suigly Mendoza on our side.”
That’s for sure. Mendoza, a captain for Roque since her freshman year because of her abilities on and off the court, manufactured a tilt-high 22 points (including a trio of three-pointers) and five steals.
Sophomore point guard and tri-captain Ashley Correa, a kid sister of St. Raphael Academy senior playmaker Charles Correa, chipped in nine points and six thefts, while classmate Jailyn Gomes posted just two points but gathered four rebounds.
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“Suigly had a huge game, and that’s because she’s very competitive,” Roque offered.
For Hope, which fell to 2-8 overall and 2-6 in D-III, sophomore Nathalie Rosado netted a team-high 14, while fellow 10th grader La’Quise Stephens scored six points, all via the trey.
The Koalas took advantage of five Blue Wave turnovers in the opening 2:15 to gain an immediate 8-3 lead, with six of those points coming on “three-bombs” by Correa and Mendoza. And, when the latter landed a coast-to-coast layin off of another steal with 8:15 remaining, Keough went up 10-3.
But head coach Gloria Patterson’s crew fought back, scoring two buckets on senior Onyinyechi Nyoku’s baseline jumper and her layup off a turnover in the span of six seconds; that sliced the Pawtucketers’ cushion to 10-7 with 7:22 left.
Over the final 5:28 before the break, however, the Koalas outscored the hosts, 13-4, and highlights included a Mendoza three-pointer, Correa’s driving baseline one-hander and another two free throws by Mendoza with 1:02 mark.
Actually, in the last 3:43, Keough went on an 8-0 run to enter halftime up, 23-11.
Roque’s bunch started the last stanza the way it had culminated the first, Correa hitting a scoop layup and Mendoza canning a trey to lift the Koalas to a mammoth 28-13 lead with 10:14 remaining.
But Hope refused to quit. Rosado hit a 16-footer with 8:11 left, and that ignited an 11-3 surge over the next 6:17. Mendoza did convert a conventional three-point play at 3:17 to make it 31-17, but Rosado hit a 12-footer, then a putback, and Stephens a baseline trey to bring the Blue Wave all the way back to a seven-point deficit (31-24).
When Rosado dropped another 16-footer with 74 ticks left, Keough led only 31-26.
Mendoza, though tickled the twine with a fast-break six-foot jumper at the 1:01 mark, and the Koalas ran out the rest of the clock.
When asked what happened during his team’s significant scoring drought, Roque explained, “These kids are aggressive when they feel like they need to be. With Ashley, as good as she is, she still can make a lot of mistakes.
“Don’t get me wrong, when you have a kid with her kind of talent, trust me, things are a lot easier with her on the floor,” he added with a chuckle. “But she’s only a sophomore, and she’s still learning.”
The Koalas ended up with just 12 turnovers, while they forced the Wave into 23 of their own, including 13 over the initial 16 minutes.
“We’re always in double digits with (opponent’s) turnovers, but 23 are up there for us,” Roque said. “I’m sort of happy with our aggressiveness, but we need to funnel that into more disciplined aggressiveness. We can’t have so many reach-in fouls, and we had quite a few of those, especially in the second half.
“We were kind of sloppy, but a win is a win, and I’ll gladly take it,” he continued.