Rebels stop Saints in Final Four duel

Rebels stop Saints in Final Four duel

St. Raphael Academy sophomore guard Tatum Forbes, right, gets ready to make her move on South Kingstown senior forward Anika Tomlinson as she brings the ball into the paint during the Rebels’ 49-44 win last Saturday. (Photos by Chuck Nadeau / www.chuckn.com)
Third time’s not the charm: SRA girls’ basketball team bows to S.K. again

KINGSTON – The South Kingstown High girls’ basketball team had been a thorn in St. Raphael Academy’s side all season long, and the Rebels frustrated the Saints once again last Saturday afternoon – this time in the Final Four of the Open Tournament at URI’s Ryan Center.

Making their first appearance in the Final Four in five seasons, the Saints got off to a shaky start in the second half and paid dearly for it, as the Rebels, thanks to a nine-point run during the first six minutes of that half, earned a spot in the state championship game by eliminating the Saints, 49-44.

The Saints hosted the Rebels during the regular season on Jan. 24 and held a 29-13 halftime lead before letting things fall apart and the Rebels taking a 53-47 win.

The Saints, who finish their excellent season with a 21-6 record, as well as the Division I-C regular-season title, came back to win their next nine games, but in the Division I semifinals on Feb. 28 at East Greenwich High, they ran into the Rebels and suffered a 42-35 loss.

The first half of last Saturday’s rematch was a tight one, despite both teams missing plenty of shots and playing with no rhythm. But those first 16 minutes were competitive and saw both teams battle to hold the lead before heading into the break tied at 13-13.

But in the second half, the Rebels, which came out and gave the Saints problems with their 2-3 zone, quickly scored six points before the Saints got back on the board, and a nine-point run by S.K. soon increased their lead to 30-17 with 10 minutes to go in the game.

“We came out flat (in the second half),” SRA head coach Tammy Drape said. “They started to panic when S.K. went to the zone, and we’ve been working on it. I think one player loses their confidence, it trickles down to another player, and you can see it. Like I’ve been saying all year, that’s the mental toughness; that’s the hardest part to teach.”

The Rebels’ lead stayed in double digits, but with just under three minutes to go, the Saints tried to make a final push. In the last two-plus minutes, they scored 18 points, but left some free throws on the floor.

Sophomore guard Tatum Forbes, who had nine points, fouled out with 1:31 left in the game, but junior forward Paige O’Brien, who scored a team-high 12 points, and sophomore forward Amaya Dowdy, who added 11, hit three-pointers to cut the Saints’ deficit to 45-39.

But three free throws in the final minute extended the Rebels’ lead, and the Saints ended up making the final score as close as it was on a long buzzer-beating three-pointer by O’Brien.

The Rebels, who ended up losing in Sunday’s title game to La Salle, 46-34, were led by sophomore forward Carley Fewlass’ game-high 15 points and junior forward Hayden Hill’s 14.

After they suffered their two earlier losses to the Rebels, the Saints seemed to have a difficult time getting their feet under them last Saturday. Drape said there may have been a little bit of fear in playing S.K. again, but she added that ultimately South Kingstown is a great team.

“We didn’t take care of the basketball,” she said. “We didn’t capitalize on things we worked on all week. You have to take care of the ball.”

Free-throw shooting was also not a good topic for the Saints, as they went 9-for-19 from the line. The Rebels, meanwhile, took more shots and were close to 70 percent, as they were 18-for-26.

“Free throws win basketball games, and we were terrible from the line today,” added Drape. “As a coach, I practice free throws every single day, a lot of them. It’s mental.”

The Saints will graduate only two seniors from this season’s team, forward Sierra Gonzalez, who scored six points, and guard Monet Gailloux. The rest of the team is eligible to return, and the Saints had five sophomores that either started or saw regular time during the season.

“We have a young team, and anytime you get as far as we just did, (to the) Final Four of the Open Tournament, as a coach, you have to be excited about that and happy,” Drape added. “I’m proud of the kids, and I love the way they didn’t quit. And that was my main message: ‘Don’t quit, don’t quit, don’t quit.’”

SRA sophomore guard Elizabeth Bruno, right, plays tight defense on S.K. junior forward Hayden Hill.