WESTERLY — Armed with three returning starters from a 19-win, Division II tournament semifinal team, Westerly High carries high expectations heading into this girls basketball season.
But coach Sue Haik’s squad, like any team, figures to round into form well into the 2018 portion of its schedule. Playing perhaps the toughest team they will face all year, the Bulldogs showed better days await, falling to Division I South Kingstown, 40-28, in an Injury Fund game.
Time is Westerly’s ally.
”This was a good test for us,” Haik said. “We needed to be stronger with the ball today, and we wanted to get the ball inside more than we did early. But with all the turnovers we had (23), we only gave up 40 points, which is a positive.”
Westerly trailed throughout, scoring just four points in the game’s first 10 minutes and trailing 22-9 at halftime. SK swarmed Westerly center Megan Albamonti, a returning D-II first-team pick as a sophomore. She finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but did not get off a shot for the first quarter of the game.
“We prepared to not let Albamonti get the ball,” SK coach Henry Herbermann said. “Anika Tomlinson did a great job fronting her and communicating with other teammates for double teams. We’ve been emphasizing defense and unselfish play. We got all of that tonight.”
The Bulldogs graduated two starters but also lost 5-11 center Arianna Fort, who moved out of the area after a solid sophomore year of 8 points and 8 rebounds a game. Haik said getting Albamonti the ball will not be a lingering issue.
“I’m not worried about how teams will defend Megan. I’m confident we’ll be able to hit outside shots and make better passes than today,” she said.
After winning the WCCU tournament last December, SK returned to Federico Gym with a new coach and without guard Megan Bodziony, who scored 34 points in wins over Westerly (38-37) and Stonington (62-50 in the title game). The stylish guard transferred to a prep school after making second-team All-State last year for outgoing coach Amanda Varone, who led the Rebels to an 11-7 record.
Senior guard Brooke Peasley scored 12 as did sophomore guard Taylor Prout off the bench. Peasley made a pair of layups off steals to give SK the 22-9 halftime lead. Prout hit the game’s only 3.
“[Varone] left me with talent,” said Herbermann, a former Prout assistant and longtime middle school coach. “Peasley is an experienced guard and Prout has ability to create her own shot.”
Westerly junior guard Isis Hamelin (8 points) scored to cut SK’s lead to 26-21 with 9:17 left. Albamonti, who had three fouls, re-entered the game. But the Rebels showed good offensive motion without the ball, going on an 8-1 run to lead 34-21 with four minutes left.
Westerly did not hit, nor attempt, a 3-pointer and made just 4 of 10 free throws. Mia Capparelli grabbed six rebounds. Hamelin and Lauren Dobson each contributed three assists.
“SK is a very solid team,” Haik said. “Once we settled down, we played them evenly in the second half. We made in-game improvement.”
The Bulldogs outscored the Rebels, 19-18, after intermission.
Westerly returns to action Dec. 15 at home against Prout. The Bulldogs may see SK again in the WCCU tournament Dec. 26-29, although they are in different sides of the bracket.