WESTERLY — Stonington High’s girls’ basketball team started strong, stayed in command and defeated Westerly High 67-48 to win the WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament title Saturday night.
Guard Tatyana LaFrance Boyce and center Margot Calmar were the primary reason for the Bears’ success.
LaFrance Boyce made consecutive three-point plays that gave Stonington an 11-4 lead with 12:31 to go in the first half. She finished the half with 15 points, and made several steals that led to points for herself or someone else.
Calmar had 12 points at halftime. She wound up the game with 28 points, 20 rebounds and the most valuable player award trophy.
“It’s an honor, I think, because it’s been so long since we’ve won it,” Calmar said. “So it seems like we’ve been in a slump for awhile and we really wanted to do this for our coach (Paulla Solar) so it’s a great chance to give something back to her.”
Stonington (4-2) has won the varsity girls’ title 16 times in the event’s 30-year history — seven more times than runner-up Westerly.
“It definitely is (a pride thing) especially since everyone says that ever since Heather Buck left we haven’t won it so we wanted to prove we could still win this tournament because our team is so strong, every part of it,” Calmar said.
Stonington hadn’t won it since 2007 when Buck was a senior.
Stonington’s lead reached double-figures (25-15) when LaFrance Boyce made another three-point play — this time on a jumper from the corner.
LaFrance Boyce ended up on the seat of her pants after a 3-point shot from the same corner made it 30-13 with 3:24 to go in the half.
“It feels great,” the sophomore guard said. “We wanted this really bad and we just worked as a team together and we weren’t going to get off the court until we got the ‘W.’”
LaFrance Boyce was named to the five-player all-tournament team along with Westerly’s Maddy McLaughlin and Izzy Carey, Chariho’s Abby Cuddy and EWG’s Christine Harrington.
Stonington’s Annie Knizeski was given the sportsmanship award.
McLaughlin and Carey got into early foul trouble, handicapping the younger Bulldogs, who fell to 1-4.
“We know they were looking to post up and as soon as we got in foul trouble I don’t have anybody that can cover No. 15 once Izzy Carey is out of the game,” Westerly coach Holly Misto said. “They’ve got a couple of big post players (Calmar and Knizeski) and they have some strong guards.
“We have to play smarter than that. We have to be able to execute better. The effort is there. The effort is always there with these kids but we have to execute. And that means staying out of foul trouble. We’re young and inexperienced and we have to keep our experienced players on the floor.”
LaFrance Boyce said getting off to a strong start was a priority.
“That’s what we wanted to do,” she said. “In practice that’s all we worked on was intensity and getting the ball up the court, passing it to the post. We just wanted to get a big lead and not be gentle at all; we wanted to just go hard the whole time.”
Stonington led 39-23 at halftime.
LaFrance Boyce was slowed some in the second half by Bulldog freshman Olivia Riley, but Stonington senior point guard Megan Sartor more than made up the slack.
Sartor had 11 points and seven assists for the game. She scored nine points in the second half.
Sartor scored on two driving shots early in the second half as the Bears increased their lead to 45-23. First she took the ball all the way to the hoop on the left side of the line, and then she made a difficult 12-foot runner after penetrating the left side again.
Sartor hit another driving floater a bit later and assisted on three-point plays by LaFrance Boyce and Calmar as the Bear bulge swelled to 22 points, 57-35.
Tia LaFrance Boyce, Chelsea Alfonso and Knizeski also had major moments for the Bears.
Calmar said winning the MVP award was unexpected and beating Westerly means more for the school than their team.
“They always say ‘you can’t lose to Westerly’ so it’s just that back-and-forth rivalry that fuels a healthy conversation,” she said.
Sophomore Alyssa Valentini led Westerly in scoring with 17 points.