Jamestown duo make a push for the NKHS varsity squad
Jamestown’s Kristjana McCarthy and Roma Patel, both 15 and sophomores at North Kingstown High, are putting their best efforts into making the Skippers girls’ basketball team. Tryouts start Monday at North Kingstown High.
Kristjana made her 5-foot-11- inch presence felt on the junior varsity team last year with sharp defense and solid offense. But she’s capable of scoring more than her average 6 to 10 points and is one of the up-and-coming sophomores the Skippers will tap to steer their girls’ varsity team into the postseason, coach Robert Simeone said.
“She’s almost 6 feet tall,” he said, and he has no doubt she can develop into one of the team’s leading scorers.
The Skippers lost four of last year’s starting five to graduation, he said, so opportunity is knocking for underclassmen like Kristjana to get into the game.
That’s a big change from a year ago, she said. At the start of last season, Kristjana couldn’t count on getting playing time with the junior varsity.
“At the beginning of the season, they didn’t recognize my talent,” she said, but she changed minds eventually.
This year’s squad will need to get point production from sophomores like her, he said. He described the situation facing this year’s team as “reloading,” more than rebuilding. The Skippers have a lot of young talent, and they’re good enough to win in the postseason, he said. But they’re also green and one big challenge will be overcoming the experience gap against teams like La Salle.
Last year, the varsity girls finished the season 11-7 and earned a shot at the state championship, only to lose in the round of 16.
Simeone thinks this squad will fare better, despite tough Division I teams like South Kingstown, Exeter-West Greenwich and Westerly.
“We have the ability to get into the semifinal round,” he said, even though the Skippers have lost four “very good seniors” to graduation.
“In our division, every single game is a tough opponent,” he said. “We play one game at a time.” Simeone said that the team doesn’t look past anybody.
Last year, for example, La Salle played them at home and blew the game open, but later, they played at La Salle and took the game into triple overtime. Exeter-West Greenwich, South Kingstown, Westerly “and us” should be the division powerhouses, he said.
“But it depends on who shows up to play,” he said. Simeone looks to two returning seniors, Stephanie Mansfield and Jenna Gibson, to lead the team. Mansfield was the second guard last season, but he expects her to take over as point guard to replace an injured player. Gibson is a power forward. She excels at rebounding and offensive put backs and she played “a lot of minutes” last year coming off the bench. Gibson was hurt in the last week of the season, and the Skippers might have fared better in the playoffs if she had been available. Three juniors have the best shot at grabbing the remaining starting position, he said.
The underclassmen, including one talented freshman, are going to see playing time, but they’re also going to be under pressure to contribute.
“There’s a couple of players from last year’s junior varsity who we’re looking to produce,” he said.
Simeone, in his second season as head coach, said a lot of points come off steals.
“We play an up-tempo game,” he said, which involves running a motion offense and “highly intense man-to-man defense.”
The style of play suits Roma, a speedy wing guard who makes a lot of steals, but also stops players from moving with the ball.
Roma also played junior varsity last year on the team that made it to the state championship quarterfi nal round, and she is establishing herself as an unselfish playmaker, Kristjana said.
“I mostly try to assist,” Roma said.
“She does that a lot,” Kristjana said, “and she gives it up to the post more often than the other wing guards.”
The 5-foot-5-inch Roma had a breakthrough game last year and sat on the varsity bench for one game “as an honor,” she said. “It was against Westerly.”
“Sometimes, I’m afraid to go to the basket,” she added, but this time she “kind of kept on going” and wound up with 8 points.
Now, she wants to play on the varsity for real and will challenge herself to earn a spot by midseason, she said.
The season tips off Dec. 9 with a home game against Narragansett.
“I’ll probably be playing more for the JV, and Kristjana more for the varsity,” Roma said.
South Kingstown is the big rivalry, she said.
Roma, daughter of Ilesh and Varsha Patel, comes from a family of basketball players but hopes someday to be lawyer, she said. Her brother Romil is in college at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Kristjana, daughter of Drew and Carla McCarthy, is thinking about medicine and may want to specialize in neonatal care.