WESTERLY — Some nights, the Westerly High girls basketball team may struggle with its shooting.
Other times, turnovers can be an issue. And there are still other nights the Bulldogs' free-throw shooting could be better.
But the one constant from the squad this season has been its ability to play pressure man-to-man defense. It is the foundation of Westerly's success and will be a huge part of any run they make in the Division II tournament that starts next week.
Westerly used its unrelenting defense to top Chariho High, 63-46, in a Senior Night league game at Federico Gym on Wednesday.
"Their defense really got to us tonight," Chariho coach Tom Gilligan said. "Offensively, we struggled all night."
Westerly was intent on limiting Chariho guard Spencer Shiels (13.4 points per game) and post player Kate Powers (19.8 ppg).
Shiels has good quickness and is an effective shooter. She can also score in transition. When Shiels gets going, Powers seems to come open under the basket where she can be a force.
But Westerly kept Shiels in check, limiting her to eight points. Westerly gave her few open looks and even fewer opportunities to get the ball inside to Powers.
Her lone field goal came with about five minutes remaining when the game was out of reach.
"We knew we had to shut down Spencer Shiels and Kate Powers," Westerly's senior guard Lauren Dobson said. "We focused on keeping their scoring down and taking that momentum from defense to the offense side."
Dobson, twin sisters Jaime and Jenna Murray, and Isis Hamelin all took turns defending Shiels.
"I think we might have even had five different people play her," Westerly coach Sue Haik said. "We kept making her work and trying to front Powers in the post. We played good team defense. The matchups worked out well for us.
"Spencer is tough and a strong player. But we were strong enough and athletic enough to keep up with her."
After falling behind 16-5, Chariho (10-10, 10-7 Division II) closed the first half strong and trailed by just four, 27-23, at the half.
But Westerly outscored Chariho, 15-4, over the first six minutes of the second half to take control. The Chargers had three five-second violations while trying to inbound the ball during the decisive stretch.
The Bulldogs also came up with a number of steals and forced several turnovers during that run. Chariho finished the game with 29 turnovers.
"We knew the first few minutes of the second half would dictate how the game would go," Gilligan said. "We certainly didn't want it to start out that way."
A 12-footer from Dobson made it 42-27 with about 10 minutes remaining in the game, and Westerly (15-6, 14-3) was in control the rest of the way.
"The second half we kind of fell apart and we didn't run our sets the way we are supposed to," Gilligan said. "They took away Spencer and, quite honestly, no one else stepped up enough.
"They are a very good team, and we just needed to be better."
Megan Albamonti led Westerly in scoring with 26 points and collected 15 rebounds. Albamonti, who surpassed the 1,000-point mark earlier this season, needs two more rebounds for 1,000 for her career.
Hamelin finished with seven points, and Alexa Beal had six points and six rebounds. Emily Haik also contributed six rebounds.
Powers led the Chargers with 12 points and seven rebounds. Annaliese Kenney added nine points.
Westerly will be the No. 2 seed in the Division II tournament and receive a bye. Haik said the Bulldogs would likely host a game on Tuesday.
Chariho will also be in the tournament and could play as soon as Friday. Pairings will be released later this week.