WESTERLY — When Westerly High junior forward Izzy Carey collected her third foul just over a minute into the second half, the Bulldogs’ girls’ basketball team held a tenuous 25-22 lead against Smithfield Friday.
Westerly coach Holly Misto took Carey about for a minute. Then the Bulldogs’ other frontcourt stalwart Julianna Morrone picked up her third foul shortly after with Westerly up 28-24.
In a physical game that resulted in 52 combined free throws, Carey and Morrone didn’t commit a foul the rest of the way. And Carey responded to the foul trouble with some of her most inspired play to date, scoring 10 second-half points to finish with career highs in points (16) and rebounds (10) to help the Bulldogs post a strong finish en route to a 50-34 victory in a Division I crossover game.
“Just because you have three fouls, it doesn’t mean you stop playing hard and give it up,” Carey said. “I was aware not to reach and go over the back to get my fourth, and things worked out well.”
Carey scored two second-half field goals on offensive rebounds and one on a long lead pass off a mid- court inbounds pass from junior classmate Maddy McLaughlin, who also recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists. After Morrone’s third foul, Westerly (5-6, 3-3 Division I-South) went on a 12-5 run to stretch the lead to 40-29. Smithfield fell to 5-4, 3-3 Division I-Central.
Carey averages 8.9 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Bulldogs, but is gaining more confidence as the season progresses. She produced 14 points and eight rebounds in a win over Fitch Jan. 11.
“We took Izzy out and gave her a few minutes to think about it and she responded with a monster game in the second half,” Misto said. “We have three post players and if one gets in foul trouble, the other two have to step up. That’s one of Izzy’s best games. That’s what we need out of her all the time.”
Westerly maintained a double-digit lead in the last five minutes thanks to strong defense and improved free throw shooting (18 of 28 overall).
The Bulldogs have picked up the pace from the line after early-season inaccuracy but still are below 50 percent for the year (48 percent). Alyssa Valentini’s 11 points gave Westerly three double-figure scorers. Morrone added nine rebounds.
“This team gets to the line a lot, which is a positive,” Misto said. “We’re starting to make a few more. Overall, this team is young and still learning. We’re winning the games we should win, but we need to step it up against the better teams.”
McLaughlin, Westerly’s leading scorer at 16.9 a game, scored just one field goal Friday, but she was valuable with double-digit assists and her 10 of 12 free throw shooting. Her ball-handling and court presence helped Westerly pull away in the second half. She assisted on three straight hoops, two by Carey and one jumper by Emily Sullivan, to put the Bulldogs up, 32-24.
After a bucket by Smithfield’s Rachel Balcom, Carey hit a 15-footer, assisted by McLaughlin, and converted an offensive-rebound basket to up the lead to 36-26 with nine minutes left. Smithfield’s last field goal was a 3-pointer by Balcom with eight minutes left to make it 36-20. Carey responded with two free throws and Valentini hit a shot to make it 40-29 with 6:13 left.
The 10 assists are a career high for McLaughlin, whose previous high of nine dishes came against Exeter-West Greenwich.
“Smithfield was trying to take Maddy out on the top, but her passing opened things up against their 1-2-2 zone,” Misto said. “She doesn’t have to score a lot to contribute, but she still had a double-double.
“I think point guard is her position — she runs the point on her AAU team — but she can play the one, two or three.”
McLaughlin’s only setback Friday was when she was sent sprawling to the court on her back with four minutes left on a hard foul by Balcom, who was called for a foul trying to get the rebound away from McLaughlin and a flagrant-foul technical for flinging her down with her arm.
It was her fourth and fifth fouls.
Misto said McLaughlin felt pain, but will not miss any action.
“[Balcom] and Maddie are buddies and teammates on the same AAU team,” said Misto, who said Smithfield is usually a physical team although that play was out of character. “Smithfield is very aggressive and we know what to expect. The key tonight is we matched their physicality.”
Balcom and Sondra Bouchard scored nine points apiece to lead Smithfield.
The Bulldogs play host to Chariho in a Division I-South game 7 p.m. Tuesday.
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