MIDDLETOWN — Most nights, holding the opposition to 33 points bodes well for a team’s chances at a victory.
This, however, was not one of those nights.
Despite a strong defensive effort, the Westerly High girls basketball team struggled on offense and lost to Middletown 33-31.
The Bulldogs, who were tied for first place in Division II coming in, were up 14-12 at halftime.
“I knew it would be a good game. it’s just frustrating that, offensively, we’re struggling in the paint, from the foul line,” Westerly coach Sue Haik said. “Our defense is great, but our [shooting] percentage is just killing us right now. We were under 50 percent [9 for 19] on free throws and, if we were lucky, probably 20 percent shooting.
“Against good teams, you’re not going to win if you can’t put the ball in the hole. We played tough, but in the end, we’ve got to get the ball in the basket.”
Senior forward Megan Albamonti led Westerly (12-6, 11-3 Division II) with 18 points and 21 rebounds.
The Bulldogs had multiple opportunities to tie or take the lead in the final minute.
Westerly went 1 for 2 from the line with 37 seconds left to cut the Middletown lead to 32-31. After the Islanders missed the front end of a 1-and-1, the Bulldogs missed a 3-point attempt with 16.9 seconds left. Middletown’s Erin Clancey grabbed the rebound and was fouled, but she also missed the front end, giving Westerly another possession down one.
But after an errant in-bounds pass was tipped, a jumper was off the mark.
Clancey, who finished with eight points and 13 rebounds, again grabbed the rebound and was fouled. This time, she made one of two free throws to make it 33-31.
With 3.2 seconds left, Westerly tried to throw a deep in-bounds pass, but Middletown came up with the ball and ran out the clock.
“When we play defense, we usually can keep teams down below 40,” Middletown coach Mike Yates said. “We want to get 40 and keep other teams under 40. That’s our goal.
“They’re a great team. … We knew we were in for a battle. Sue coaches that team really well, and we had to play our best game and we did a pretty good job.”
Ireauna Pegus led Middletown (12-3, 11-3) with 13 points.
Lauren Dobson finished with eight points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals for Westerly. Only two other Bulldogs scored. Emily Haik grabbed nine rebounds.
Albamonti had just four points at halftime, but found some room to work down low in the second half.
“We put our freshman, Eliza [Hellendrung], on her, because Eliza is our best defender, and luckily our 2-3 [zone] defense in the second half did a pretty good job,” Yates said.
Offense was hard to come by all night, but especially in the first half. With four minutes gone, it was 2-0 Middletown. Westerly tied it at 9 with 1:50 remaining in the first half.
“We knew it was a tough game for first place, and I think everybody was a little tight shooting the ball,” Yates said. “I knew defense was going to be a strong point in the game, and I guess our defense was a little bit better than theirs.”
Middletown’s defense did cause some problems for the Bulldogs.
“They’re athletic, long and lanky on the defensive end, so they clog up some lanes in the paint,” Sue Haik said.
Westerly led by as many as four in the second half, but Middletown went on a 7-0 run to take the lead and was up six with 2:45 to play.
“We knew if we had a four- or five-point lead, we’d probably be all right,” Yates said of the closing minutes.
The Bulldogs have lost two of their past three games and will look to bounce back Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Mount St. Charles (4-8).
“We’re just going to keep working. Shooting is confidence and we're working at it every day at practice,” Haik said. “We’ll just get ready for the next one.”