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WESTERLY — For the first time since the 2010 Division II-Championship game the Westerly High and Chariho girls’ basketball teams met in the state tournament.
There may not have been quite as much at stake in Tuesday’s Division I first-round game but it was just as competitive as the 2010 incarnation and the Bulldogs again came out on top — this time 52-48.
The tourney win was the third Westerly victory over Chariho this season. All three games were settled by seven points or less.
“It was a competitive game,” Westerly coach Holly Misto said. “It’s always hard to beat a team three times in a season.”
Both teams’ offenses struggled at the beginning of the contest. Chariho and Westerly combined for seven turnovers in the first 6 minutes and only 11 total points (Chariho led 6-5).
The Chargers held on to a narrow 9-8 advantage when the seventh-seeded Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run and took a 15-9 lead. After that run, the Bulldogs (12-12) never trailed again.
While Chariho (9-14) may not have been able to retake the lead, the quick seven points hardly knocked the 10th-seeded Chargers out of the game.
Abby and Katie Cuddy, who scored 18 and 17 points respectively, almost single-handedly kept Chariho in the game after it fell behind by six in the first half.
The two Cuddys scored Chariho’s next 15 points (mostly in the low post) and tied the score 27-27 after 3½ of the second half had expired.
“We stepped up all week in practice making sure we were ready for the physical play and I think we dominated that,” Chariho coach Arianna Dolock said. “The Cuddys, Abby and Katie, were able to handle the physical play and still put the ball in the hoop.”
Abby Cuddy, who also grabbed 17 rebounds, said it was all about attacking the rim.
“I think just being aggressive and going as hard as we could toward the hoop,” she said. “They would foul us so even on ones we’d miss we had an opportunity to take foul shots.”
Misto said her team’s fouls made it harder to make adjustments defending the Cuddys.
“We got into foul trouble,” she said. “They were calling a lot of fouls tonight and we had to adjust.
“We had someone chasing Katie Cuddy around and when they saw the size difference, they were trying to post her up.
“Katie’s big for a guard so I had to keep switching and putting Maddy (McLaughlin) back on her but I also didn’t want to waste Maddy’s legs. We had to switch up and just hope the mismatch wouldn’t hurt us too much.”
Westerly retook the lead on an Alyssa Valentini layup but Chariho cut the advantage to one point after Abby Cuddy went 1 for 2 from the free-throw line.
McLaughlin hit a big 3-pointer on Westerly’s next possession that started an 18-8 run which gave Westerly its biggest lead of the game — 47-36 with just under 5 minutes to go.
No one player dominated the scoring for Westerly. McLaughlin had 12 points and Valentini added 12 off the bench.
Izzy Carey scored 10 points and beat the Chariho zone defense more than once for a back-door layup.
“Our scoring was really balanced tonight,” Misto said. “That (quick pass play) wasn’t a set offense, that was just pass, cut, and pick-and-roll.”
Carey would receive the pass and score before Chariho had a chance to get into position.
“Our coach called the play “five-out,” Carey said. “You kind of just pass and cut and it was there.”
Chariho battled back into the game with a 13-6 run which made the score 49-46 Westerly with a minute and a half to go but an Emily Sullivan layup extended the lead back to five and the Chargers (9-14) never got within a single possession again.
Dolock added a little extra spice to the Chariho-Westerly rivalry when she went on record with The Sun saying she wanted to see Westerly in the tournament.
Misto downplayed the quotes as friendly banter but also had some fun with them after the game.
“Coach Dolock and I are friends and it’s about the kids not us. But my kids know we don’t lose to coach Dolock,” Misto said smiling.
“We let our game do our talking for us. They wanted us — they got us,” Misto said with a laugh.
“Seriously though, it was a good game, both teams played hard and, fortunately, we came out on the winning end.”
Carey said the playful jabbing just made the game more fun for the players.
“Their (Chariho’s) coach used to work with ours so we all know her from AAU,” Carey said.
“It’s just a fun game where we all get those butterflies in the stomach.”
The loss eliminated the Chargers from the tournament but Abby Cuddy said she thought her team could build on the season.
“We’re a young team. We lose two seniors but, for the most part, we’re all coming back next year,” she said.
The Bulldogs moved on to the quarterfinal round with Tuesday’s victory.
Westerly will play second-seeded North Kingstown Saturday at 3 p.m. at Rhode Island College in Warwick.
The Skippers (21-2, 16-2 Division I-South), who had a first-round, beat Westerly 50-26 on Dec. 20.
“Quite a challenge,” Misto said. “Tough team. We’re going to have our hands full but, hey, anything can happen so we just have to go out and play.”
Carey was confident about Saturday’s tilt with the Division I power.
“I have a good feeling about this game,” she said. “We’ve grown a lot since the last time we played them.”