WOOD RIVER JCT. — Down 13 points with about three minutes to play, the Chariho High girls basketball team could have gone through the motions down the stretch, accepting what looked like a double-digit defeat.
The Chargers instead finished the second half with a 15-2 run to force overtime, but ended up losing to Coventry 57-51 in on Thursday night.
Chariho (0-2 Division II) had a chance to win it in regulation with the ball under its own basket and one second on the clock, but a baseline 3-pointer went just long.
Sophomore sharpshooters Casey Mastin and Lucie Willett entered the game for the first time in the closing minutes and drained three 3s — two for Mastin, one for Willett — to fuel the comeback.
“We put in some young kids who are good shooters, and the funny thing is, they’re really not afraid of the moment. Those were big-time shots,” Chariho coach Tom Gilligan said. “At that point, we needed points. I was really happy to see those girls make shots. They’d been sitting here [on the bench] for 30 minutes, but they both have the guts of a burglar — they’re not afraid to shoot.”
Sophomore point guard Spencer Shiels led the Chargers with 21 points, including a 10-for-11 night at the free-throw line, and added four assists, eight rebounds and eight steals.
“Spencer Shiels played her heart out. She’s the heart of our team,” Gilligan said of the 5-foot Shiels. “She’s fearless. She’s our go-to person for sure.”
Chariho could not stop Coventry junior forward Maddie Dessert, who led all scorers with 31 points. She also grabbed 11 rebounds.
“Maddie was unbelievable tonight. She always has that nice little turnaround off glass,” Knotty Oakers coach Donna Beaudoin said. “We’ve been working on her turning into the basket instead of away from the basket, which was what she liked to do, and she did a great job tonight.”
Coventry (2-0 Division II) took a 19-16 lead into halftime, but every time the Oakers looked ready to pull away, the Chargers rallied.
“I was very happy with the way we competed,” Gilligan said. “I was real happy with the effort.”
Chariho started two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore, but Gilligan said not many of his players have logged a lot of varsity minutes.
“Besides Spencer … there’s not a lot of varsity experience, so this is all kind of new for them,” he said. “Our first few games, we’ve been trying different combinations, and our bench is getting shorter.”
Sophomore forward Shelby Roode scored eight points off the bench and added six rebounds. Ally Buckley grabbed a team-best 11 rebounds and Brittney LaBelle, a freshman, finished with six points and nine rebounds.
Going into overtime, it appeared the Chargers had the momentum, but Coventry kept its composure and outscored Chariho 8-2 over the extra four minutes.
“We’re getting used to playing these tight games. We’ve had two games that we won by two and the other night we won by one,” Beaudoin said. “They’re finding a way to win, which for me, is the most important thing right now. I want them to learn how to win so that when we, hopefully, get to the playoffs, they’re ready.”
Of Coventry’s 21 turnovers, 15 were Chariho steals, and those steals also played a big role in the second-half comeback.
“They’re scrappy and they hustle and they did a good job,” Beaudoin said. “They just hit shots when they had to, and we made some turnovers that helped them as well.”
While the outcome wasn’t the desired one, overall Gilligan overall was pleased with his team’s performance against a quality opponent.
“They’re a good team, [Beaudoin] is a great coach and we just go back to work tomorrow,” he said.