WESTERLY — South Kingstown's girls basketball team takes tremendous pride in the way it plays man-to-man defense.
They certainly delivered a lesson Thursday night in the 35th annual WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament, handing Stonington High its first loss of the season, 49-32, at Federico Gym.
South Kingstown (4-0) will play Westerly in the title game Saturday at 8 p.m. Westerly beat Chariho, 55-27, in the second game Thursday.
The Rebels pressured every movement Stonington made, forcing a number of turnovers. When the Bears (6-1) were able to drive to the basket, the long and athletic Rebels blocked shot after shot.
Stonington finished just 9 of 70 (12.9 percent) from the field.
SK has two starters that stand 5-10, and another is 5-11. And all the Rebels can get up and down the floor.
"When you face a taller team, you have to up-fake. You can't go straight at them or you run into the bigs," Stonington coach Paulla Solar said. "Maybe a baseline drive would have been better than down the middle. They had numerous blocks.
"They are a good team. They have length and they have athletes. Everybody was trying hard to win, but we might have lost our focus and composure as a team."
Stonington trailed 21-17 at the half, and a pair of free throws by Zoe Ribeiro left the Bears behind, 23-21, with 13:16 left in the game.
After that the Rebels outscored the Bears, 10-2, to go up 33-23. Carley Fewlass and Anika Tomlinson coverted back-to-back 3-point plays to give SK the lead. Both times they were able to get open by cutting to the basket against Stonington's man-to-man defense.
Stonington could not cut into the SK lead because the Rebels were shutting down the Bears' offense. A baseline 3-pointer by Faith Hutchins put the Rebels ahead 38-24 with 6:46 left.
The Bears were facing a deficit they could not overcome.
Stonington made just two field goals in the first 13 minutes of the second half. And they went 4 for 10 from the free-throw line during that stretch.
"The second half we really buckled down. I think we held them to 15 second-half points," SK coach Henry Hebermann said. "That's the strength of our team. We have girls that are very talented at playing defense, and that's what we work on in practice. A lot of these girls play three sports. The starting five are all on the soccer team, and I'm pretty sure they all play defense.
"This is the second game in a row that we have had a lot of blocks."
Hutchins, an All-State goalie for the Rebels soccer team, led South Kingstown with 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
But she said the defense is what makes the team go.
"We work hard on it in practice and it shows," Hutchins said. "We had a lot of blocks and we have a deep bench where everyone contributes throughout the game. It just comes together. Our chemistry is strong."
Hutchins said the Rebels do not like to give up points.
"If a team comes out and scores first, it gets our adrenaline going. We want it back. We don't want them to get on a run," Hutchins said. "One of our problems has been fouling. But hopefully we will get better at that."
Hutchins scored nine of her points in the first half.
"Faith was making shots in the first half, and it was a huge relief for us when she is making baskets and scoring," Herbermann said.
Miranda Arruda led the Bears in scoring with 14 points, and Aliza Bell had nine and 19 rebounds.
Fewlass finished with 11 points for the Rebels. Sydni Vesterholm added eight.