PROVIDENCE --- St. Raphael Academy picked a bad time to endure its worst offensive performance of the season.
Needing a victory over Moses Brown on Tuesday night in order to clinch sole possession of the Division II-Central crown, the Saints found themselves struggling with their shot from start to finish and left the Quakers’ Waughtel-Howe Field House with an ugly 47-40 defeat.
The Saints, who along with the Quakers, are 13-2 in league play, shot 19 percent from the floor (14-for-72) and 45 percent from the free-throw stripe (9-for-20) to finish with their lowest point total in a division game this season, and one well below the 59.8 points-per-game average they produced in their first 14 games.
Also throw in 16 turnovers, 17 fouls (including a technical and an intentional), and some occasional sloppy play to the list of things that went wrong for the Saints, and one can see that this was clearly a night to put in the rearview mirror.
“We didn’t play well,” added SRA head coach Fred Saunders. “Obviously, we wanted to win the division title outright, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We’ll bounce back and we’ll get ready for the state playoffs.”
The Saints can still claim sole ownership of the championship on Thursday if they defeat Warwick Vets at home on their Senior Night and the Quakers fall to Pilgrim on the road, but the Hurricanes and Patriots have a total of five victories and would need to pull off a monumental upset to beat either team.
Speaking of Senior Night, that’s what the Quakers celebrated before the contest, and they rode the momentum from their festivities into the game and broke out to a 10-2 lead that forced Saunders to burn a time-out.
The Saints didn’t hit their first shot from the floor until Kaylee Oliver came off the bench to sink a three-pointer. That helped kick off an 11-2 run that gave the Saints a 13-12 lead with 5:08 to play, but that ended up being their lone lead of the night.
The Quakers rattled off the next eight points, and they ended up taking that lead into the break, thanks to a shot clock-beating three-pointer by Abby Schreiber with 28 seconds to play in the half that made it a 25-17 game.
The Saints, who ended the first half hitting just four of their 38 field-goal attempts (10.5 percent), did their best to get back in the game at the start of the second half, but the hosts used a seven-point run with less than 12 minutes to play to take their biggest lead of the contest (36-24) with 8:10 to go.
But the Saints refused to call it an early night. Slowly, but surely, they cut their deficit to a bucket (40-38) on a three-pointer by Christa Thomas that was soon followed by a fast-break layup by Lauren Gaj.
With 2:17 to go, the Quakers made it a three-point game when Isabelle Robinson hit the back end of two free throws, but Oliver responded with a jumper off the backboard that was just inside the three-point stripe to make it a one-point game with 1:32 left and keep the large crowd on hand on the edges of their seats.
Unfortunately for the Saints, those were their final points of the night. A layup by Moses Brown’s Ogechi Ezemma with 1:20 on the clock made it a 43-40 game, and the Quakers did the rest of their damage from the free-throw line, hitting five of their nine shots.
The Quakers, who also didn’t have one of their better nights of the year, shooting an even 25 percent (18-for-72) from the field and turning the ball over 18 times, were led by Elle Vernerey’s game-high 15 points, Ezemma’s 11, and Schreiber’s eight.
The Saints received a team-best nine points and four steals from Gaj and 10 rebounds off the bench from Kelsy Lynch.