PROVIDENCE — A cold shooting night doomed Westerly High in the Elite Eight of the girls state basketball tournament at Rhode Island College, as St. Raphael Academy advanced with a 45-33 victory Saturday.
The sixt-seeded Bulldogs trailed by seven at half, and St. Ray's built the lead to 11 points, 26-15, with 11:10 remaining.
Westerly (18-8) managed to get within four on a 7-0 run, with a basket in the lane by center Megan Albamonti, a corner 3-pointer from guard Isis Hamelin and a layup in transition by forward Emily Haik with 8:40 left.
However, Saints guard Elizabeth Bruno answered with a 3-point shot of her own. That started a 10-0 run by Saint Ray's, which culminated with a stepback 3-pointer by forward Paige O'Brien, for a 36-22 lead.
Westerly coach Sue Haik praised the defensive work of her team, but said the shots just weren't falling for them.
“The ball just wouldn't bounce in a few times,” she said. “We also had a few turnovers for no apparent reason. The pressure wasn't that bad, we were just trying to force a few things inside.”
O'Brien led the third-seeded Saints (20-5) with 13 points, as they also struggled from the field. The Saints only managed 17 field goals, as center Amaya Dowdy was stymied inside by Albamonti and Emily Haik.
“Our defense was solid I thought and kept us in the game, especially in the first half when we didn't score the last six minutes,” coach Haik said. “The girls played hard. It was against a great, solid team and we left a lot of points on the court.”
While Dowdy struggled to score, she was an imposing presence on the defensive end, as her length and foot-speed allowed her to contest Westerly players out to the 3-point line.
The Bulldogs continued to battle down the stretch, and received help when St. Ray's guard Tatum Forbes was called for a technical foul for shoving a Westerly player after a timeout was called. Hamelin hit the two technical free throws to pull Westerly within eight, 36-28 with 3:14 left.
On St. Ray's next possession, the Saints Monet Gailloux, hit a free throw. But Westerly cut the lead to seven with a midrange jumper from Albamonti with 2:45 remaining.
The Bulldogs would get no closer though. Westerly couldn't convert on its next five possessions, and were forced to foul St. Ray's to get the ball back. The Saints weren't perfect from the line, but managed to hit 6 of 10 to put the game away.
Albamonti had the Bulldogs' last bucket – a 3-point shot with 42.1 remaining – and finished with a team-high 16 points. For Albamonti, who finished her career with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, it was her first 3-pointer.
No other Westerly player finished in double figures. Hamelin had eight points off the bench, all in the second half, and she was the only other Bulldog with more than one field goal.
In the first half, Albamonti scored nine of Westerly's 13 points, and even those came on contested putbacks and shots in the lane. Westerly struggled to force turnovers for easy offense, while the Saints were more able to handle the press, and couldn't convert in the halfcourt offense.
With 10:11 in the first half, Westerly took a 10-6 lead on two free throws by Albamonti. The Bulldogs didn't score for the next seven minutes, until another basket by Albamonti. She also had a free throw. In that final 10 minutes of the first half, St. Ray's went on a 14-3 run, taking a 20-13 lead into the locker room that it wouldn't relinquish.
The Bulldogs will lose nine players to graduation – starters Albamonti, Emily Haik, Carley Bowen, Lauren Dobson and Jaime Murray; and reserves Hamelin, Anna Cozzolino, Jenna Murray and Mia Capparelli.
“You couldn't ask for a better group of girls and team support,” coach Haik said. “Its been a great run and we're going to miss them.”