WOOD RIVER JCT. — After giving up 85 points in a loss to the Wheeler School on Monday, Chariho High’s girls basketball team knew a similar effort against Westerly High on Thursday would result in another loss.
Chariho responded by playing better defense, limiting its turnovers and thumping Westerly, 54-40, to hand the Bulldogs their first league loss of the season.
“After getting lit up for 85 the other night we knew had to get back to defense. We are not going to win many games giving up that many points,” Chariho coach Tom Gilligan said. “We did a much better job tonight. And we took care of the ball. We had more than 20 turnovers the other night and tonight it was a lot less.”
Westerly (6-5, 5-1 Division II-South) did not have a good shooting night from the field, and the Bulldogs made just 39.1 percent of their free throws (9 for 23).
“When you score and make free throws, you take pressure off your defense and take away confidence from the other team,” Westerly coach Sue Haik said. “And when you are not putting the ball in, you are playing transition defense.
“The shots were there. Realistically, when you look at how we shot the ball and our free throws, we are not going to win.”
The Chargers took control of the game in the final eight minutes of the first half. After trailing 9-5, they outscored the Bulldogs 21-2 to take a 26-11 lead with 3:50 remaining in the half.
Annaliese Kenney scored five of her nine points from the line during the run. Spencer Shiels (20 points) had a four-point play after getting fouled on a 3-pointer and a layup during the spurt.
Shiels is most effective when the game is up and down the floor.
“It’s my favorite part of the game,” she said. “I just try to move the ball.”
Shiels had a number of step-back shots, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“I just try to get the girl off balance. I go one way and cross over and then I have room to shoot,” she said.
Chariho led 28-15 at the half. Westerly managed just one field goal and six points in the final 11 minutes of the half.
The Chargers also led at the half against Westerly in the WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament, a game they ended up losing.
“We talked about that at the half,” Gilligan said. “We knew they would come after us, which they did. But we expanded the lead a little bit. We played to win versus not playing to lose.”
Westerly did reduce the deficit to 12, 33-21, on a driving basket by Isis Hamelin (18 points) with 13 minutes left. But Chariho scored the next nine points to make it 42-21 with about nine minutes remaining. Shiels had a steal and a layup, a 3-point play and a step-back 3-pointer during the burst.
“She recognizes the moment when she should do certain things,” Gilligan said. “She is playing really well, at a high level.”
Megan Albamonti, Westerly’s leading scorer (12.6 points) and rebounder (12.7), was in foul trouble much of the game. She had three fouls in the first half and sat for a long stretch, a big reason the Bulldogs struggled offensively.
She picked up her fourth foul in the first two minutes of the second half, forcing her back to the bench. She finished with six points, but still had 16 rebounds.
Chariho’s Sydney Davis also had three fouls in the first half, but stayed out of foul trouble in the second half. She finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Chariho improved to 6-4, 4-2.
“That was a big win,” Gilligan said. “We’ve been working hard all week. We’ve got three games this week, and we didn’t get off to a good star. We really did seize the moment.”
Both teams play Friday on the road at 7 p.m. Chariho visits East Providence and Westerly is at Pilgrim.