NORTH SCITUATE — Chariho High scored the first seven points of Wednesday's girls basketball state tournament game against Ponaganset.
The Chargers made their initial three shots and they were holding their own on the boards. It appeared they might be able to play with the defending state champion Chieftains.
Unfortunately for No. 11 Chariho, its good fortune didn't last — the Division I Chieftains scored the next 24 points on the way to a 64-33 win over the Division II Chargers.
Sixth-seeded Ponaganset will face La Salle Academy at Rhode Island College on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinals. La Salle edged East Greenwich, 52-50, on Monday in another opening-round game.
Ponaganset (16-5) used unrelenting, man-to-man defensive pressure and the strong inside play of Ella Pierre-Louis to take control of the game.
After taking the early lead, Chariho went scoreless for the next 8:58, starting with 5:32 left in the first quarter.
During that stretch, the Chargers had 16 possessions. They missed 11 shots from the field — three of them blocked — and two free throws. Chariho had six turnovers and Ponaganset made two steals during that time.
"They really did a good job in the half-court with their defense," Chariho coach Dan LaBelle said. "They are another team that puts pressure on you, just like a Moses Brown, just like a Westerly, Mount St. Charles and West Warwick.
"And like I've said all season, that's the next step for us, being able to handle that kind of pressure. And we will get there. It just takes time."
Pierre-Louis scored 12 of her 14 first-half points in the 24-0 run. She finished with 18. Pierre-Louis, a 5-11, junior forward, is strong around the basket and a relentless rebounder.
On one possession early in the third quarter she had three offensive rebounds. She possesses the abilities to run the floor, catch the ball in transition and the shooting touch to score around the basket.
Chariho managed to reduce the deficit a bit in the second quarter as Brianna DeGiacomo scored all six of her points to make it 27-13.
Chariho outscored the Chieftains 7-2 to end the second quarter and trailed 33-20 at halftime. Kiera Frias (nine points) hit a 3-pointer and Megan Ballard scored on pair of drives to the basket during the spurt.
"We didn't box out effectively in the first half. Against a really good basketball team that hasn't lost by more than six points in a tough Division I, you can't do that," LaBelle said.
Ponaganset outscored Chariho 15-2 to open the second half to take a 48-22 lead with 3:31 left in the third quarter to seal the win.
For the most part, substitutes played the remainder of the third quarter and the final six minutes of the game.
"I think we were a little slow in the beginning. I'm not sure why," Ponaganset coach Gary Martinelli said. "We played against an opponent that is pretty fast and pretty athletic. It reminds me of us three or four years ago."
Ponaganset, which starts four juniors and a senior, doesn't have a bad loss on its schedule and is one win away from the semifinals at the University of Rhode Island.
"Last year, we were confident," Martinelli said. "I don't know if we are as confident, but talent-wise, we are as good."
It was a good night for Division I with seven wins in the opening round. The only Division II winner was No. 4 Moses Brown, which topped South Kingstown, 53-48.
No. 1 Juanita Sanchez beat No. 16 Pilgrim, 67-28; No. 2 North Kingstown defeated Smithfield, 58-29; No. 3 La Salle Academy edged No. 14 East Greenwich, 52-50; No. 12 Rogers beat No. 5 West Warwick, 60-28; No. 10 Portsmouth topped No. 7 Barrington, 46-37; and No. 8 Bay View beat No. 9 Mount St. Charles, 50-35.
The other quarterfinal matchups on Saturday at RIC are Juanita Sanchez vs. Bay View at noon, North Kingstown vs. Portsmouth at 4 p.m., and Moses Brown vs. Rogers at 6 p.m.
The loss ended Chariho's season at 15-9. The Chargers made strides this year after going 8-14 last year with a loss in the preliminary round of the D-II tournament.
"This was a good experience for us. It's going to only make us stronger moving forward," LaBelle said. "I'm very proud of these girls. To be one of the top 16 teams in the state is a big accomplishment, especially where we came from last year."
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