WESTERLY — Megan Albamonti stole an inbounds pass, drove to the hoop, scored and was fouled with four seconds left in the first half. Her free throw pushed the Westerly High School girls basketball team’s lead to eight heading into halftime and Albamonti had 11 of her team’s 21 points.
In the second half, the rest of the Bulldogs got involved and ran away with a 55-27 win over Chariho in the first round of the WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament on Thursday night.
Albamonti finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Emily Haik had 14 points — 10 in the second half — and nine rebounds, and Lauren Dobson contributed eight points, seven assists and 10 rebounds.
“We definitely started moving the ball around a lot better,” Albamonti said of the second half. “We were hitting the open people, reversing the ball, passing it to the weak side, and we hit a lot of clutch shots. And that definitely helped us.”
Chariho sophomore point guard Spencer Shiels missed the last 1:26 of the first half after injuring her left leg during a battle for a loose ball. She limped out of the locker room but played most of the second half and finished with eight points and six rebounds.
“We need kids to step up,” Chargers coach Tom Gilligan said. “Spencer is our heart and soul. She had a tough night, and points aren’t coming from anywhere else.”
Annaliese Kenney led the Chargers with nine points and seven rebounds, but no one else had more than four points. Shiels completed a four-point play with 5:14 left in the game that made the score 43-21. Before that, Chariho had been stuck on four points in the half.
“We kind of lost our intensity, and they got too many easy baskets,” Gilligan said. “The first half, we battled more, we weren’t afraid, and the second half, we kind of lost our confidence. They’re a good team; they didn’t stop.”
Senior guard Isis Hamelin came off the bench and chipped in eight points, four steals and four rebounds for Westerly, which will face South Kingstown in Saturday’s title game.
“We got more comfortable, were taking care of the ball more, our defense created some turnovers and fast-break opportunities,” Westerly coach Sue Haik said. “Chariho’s a tough, scrappy team, so they come out and put pressure on you and play as hard as they can all the time.
“I think our depth helped. … People came off the bench and made a difference.”
Chariho’s tallest starter is senior forward Megan Hill, at 5-foot-8, and the Chargers had trouble down low against the 5-11 Albamonti.
“Their center, Megan, is really good. She’s the real deal,” Gilligan said. “We struggled with that. We went into this game wanting to compete the whole 32 minutes, and we didn’t. We’ve got to toughen up.”
When the Chargers (0-4) tried to toughen up on Albamonti in the second half, her teammates showed they’re perfectly capable of scoring, too.
“Megan is a tough mismatch,” Sue Haik said. “It’s not always about her points. It’s about what other teams have to do to cover her, and then we’re trying to adjust and find opportunities for other people.”
South Kingstown played Thursday’s first game and beat Stonington, 49-32, to reach the final.
“We’ll come out, play them hard and see what happens,” Sue Haik said. “They move the ball well, they cut well on offense. We’re going to have to be able to handle their defensive pressure and just play hard.”
The Rebels, who play in Division I, are 4-0 this season, with three of their wins coming by 46, 26 and 17 points. Their closest game was a 37-29 win over Barrington last week. Westerly is 3-2 overall and 2-0 in Division II.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough matchup,” Albamonti said. “But I feel like with our defense, our intensity, and if we put the ball in the hoop, we should be all right.”