WESTERLY — On a night that Westerly High senior Megan Albamonti snagged her 1,000th career rebound, she was also the anchoring presence in the paint and one of four Bulldogs in double figures in their 69-40 win over Shea on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the Division II girls basketball tournament.
Albamonti finished with 14 points. Senior Isis Hamelin had eight points off the bench in the first half — finishing with 11 — and senior Lauren Dobson was the hammer in the second half, scoring eight of her team-high 15. Senior Mia Capparelli also finished with 10 points.
The second-seeded Bulldogs (16-6) jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes, thanks to a 3-pointer in the corner from senior Carley Bowen and two buckets in the paint from Albamonti. However, No. 10 Shea (11-9) scored the next 10 points on a combination of drives by sophomore Kaylisse Depina and putbacks by junior Yasmine Santos, to take a lead with 10 minutes left in the first half.
Westerly coach Sue Haik said she knew Depina would score — she finished with a game-high 17 points — but stressed to her team to continue to make her work hard on both ends of the court.
“We knew that Depina would be a tough point guard, she's quick and a natural ball-handler, so we just tried to contain that and run them, push the ball, work the ball around, so that they had to work on every defensive possession,” she said. “Then we hit some shots, and we just ran them out of the gym.”
After that 10-0 run, Shea would only score six points the rest of the half. Westerly scored 19, taking a 30-18 lead into the locker room, mostly by working the ball around for open 3s and scoring in transition.
Shea didn't make a substitution until midway through the second half, and played a conservative zone defense to conserve energy. However, it meant the Raiders surrendered wide-open looks the whole game, and struggled to generate turnovers or to press despite trailing. Westerly ended up connecting on four 3-pointers in the first half, and finished with 10.
“We had team scoring throughout,” Haik said. “You can't just take away one or two. We have plenty of people who are ready to play, but if we have to go 15 deep, we'll go 15 deep.”
Westerly didn't go on one big run to put Shea away in the second half, but they did continually stretch the lead. Shea never got closer than the halftime deficit of 12, and Westerly pushed the lead to 20 with 10 minutes left, thanks to a tough finish in the lane by Albamonti and a transition jumper by Jaclyn Fusaro.
Albamonti was a constant threat on the low block and in the paint, giving the Westerly offense second chances and allowing the ball to flow around the arc. After securing her second board with 7:55 in the first half, for the 1,000th in her career, she added another 20 to finish with 22 rebounds.
“They're really physical, so that was tough. But we really worked the ball around the outside tonight, which hurt them because they couldn't get to the weak side fast enough,” she said.
Her play down low also removed one of Shea's biggest threats — Santos, the first-half point leader with nine — from the game. Primarily trying to defend Albamonti in the paint, Santos picked up three fouls in the first half and had to play less aggressively. She got called for her fourth with 8:44 left, and fouled out setting a screen with 7:49 remaining.
Haik praised Albamonti's work ethic and the example she set, both in Tuesday night's game and throughout her varsity career.
“Megan wants to run for 32 minutes,” Haik said. “She can get up and down for 32 minutes. That's part of our team work habits, that we get up and down the court. … It's an amazing stat, an amazing accomplishment, and she works her butt off and gets beat up. They were grabbing her all night and hooking her, so I told her to just run around and make the girl chase you, and good things will happen.”
Westerly will play No. 3 seed Coventry (15-5) in the semifinals on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at North Kingstown High. The winner will play in the finals at Rhode Island College on Saturday at 3:15 p.m.
Westerly beat Coventry 44-41 on Jan. 8, but Haik and Albamonti said the win was so long ago that it wouldn't have any bearing on Thursday's game.
“They're a solid team, but we're taking it game to game and we'll look at them [on tape] tomorrow,” Haik said.
“We're going to come into this game with a clear mindset. They're going to be a whole new team, but we're also a whole new team,” Albamonti said. “Our bench has so much depth, we have a group of eight seniors who are all stepping up and being great leaders for the underclassmen and ourselves, and we're really excited.”