SMITHFIELD — The future was on display for Cumberland on Thursday afternoon inside Smithfield High’s gymnasium, and judging by the way the Clippers performed in its non-league game against Woonsocket, the future looks very bright for the program.
Freshman guard Julianne Ross delivered her second 10-point output in as many games and sophomore guard Taylor Fay and Sarah Marsland had solid performances as well in the Clippers’ 39-23 victory over the Villa Novans in the opening game of the 27th annual R.I. Board of Officials/Smithfield Boosters Club Holiday Classic.
The Clippers, who rolled out a starting lineup that included two freshmen, two sophomores, and one of their four senior captains, Kait Engels, broke out to a quick 10-0 lead and never looked back in boosting their early record to 2-0.
“This is a very talented group,” Cumberland coach Deb Engels noted of her underclassmen. “The majority of them came from North (Cumberland Middle School) and they won a lot of state championships there, so they’re used to winning, and that carries forward. They play hard, they work hard, and they’re a great group of girls.”
Engels gave a dozen players quality time on the floor over the course of the contest and kept her starting five on the bench with a little over eight minutes left in the game and the Clippers holding a comfortable 32-16 command.
While Ross, who also dished out five assists and added three of the Clippers’ 13 steals in the game, enjoyed a strong game, so did Fay, who added six points and two steals, and Marsland, who didn’t score, but came through with four steals and three assists.
And the veterans also came to play. Junior forward Caitlin Cotter (eight rebounds) and Engels each tossed in six points, and another senior captain, Allie Baglini, contributed nine rebounds.
As for the Villa Novans, the youth movement is also under way, as they are fielding a 12-player team with just one senior, only a handful of returnees from last winter’s one-win squad, and most of its numbers in the junior and sophomore classes.
One of those juniors, power forward Aveanne Osagie, had a superb afternoon that included 10 points, 13 rebounds, five blocked shots, and three steals, and another 11th grader, Tayla Sevigny, had six points, but the rest of the day’s news wasn’t that good for Woonsocket.
The Villa Novans committed 34 turnovers, double the number that the Clippers ended up with, and seven came in the first 5 1/2 minutes of play when the Clippers grabbed their 10-0 lead.
The Novans cut their deficit to six (18-12) at the break and managed to climb to within four (20-16) in the first 1:35 of the second half on back-to-back layups by Osagie. But the Novans couldn’t buy a point for the next eight-plus minutes, and that allowed Cumberland to extend its lead to 16 and give its starters the rest of the afternoon off.
“We definitely have a lot of work to do,” added Engels, “as I’m sure everybody does, but I still like what I have and what I can work with. I have a lot to teach them and they have a lot to learn, but they’re more than willing to do what’s needed.”
The Clippers will return to action on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., as they will play either Lincoln or Mount St. Charles in the title game of the tournament’s Blue Division. After that game, the Clippers and Villa Novans will renew acquaintances in their Division I-North opener on Friday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Clippers’ Wellness Center.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24