Eyes on the prize: Girls’ JV basketball prepares for state championship
The North Kingstown girls’ junior varsity basketball team battles St. Mary Academy-Bay View for the state championship on Sunday.
The Skippers will have their work cut out for them, according to Jamestowners Kristjana McCarthy and Roma Patel, both 15 and North Kingstown High sophomores. The Bengals will have home court advantage, Kristjana said, so North Kingstown will have to go into the Bengals’ den to win the title. But the two islanders say their North Kingstown team believes in itself, and everybody will give a 110 percent effort.
The championship game Sunday will be the first time this season the two JV squads play, Roma said. St. Mary is not in the Skippers’ conference.
The game won’t be a first-ever event, Kristjana said, because the varsity team has competed against Bay View during summer league. The Bengals aren’t on the Skippers’ regular season schedule, though.
“Bay View’s really good,” Roma said, but she added that the Skippers are good, too.
“Our team has really come together,” Kristjana added. “We’re striving to achieve excellence. We really practiced and worked hard for it.”
Last year, the JV team lost in the first round of the tournament. She did expect this team to fare better than last year’s squad.
“There’s a saying the coach (Brenda Westberry) has,” Roma said. “We aren’t great, but we’re good and we’re becoming a great team together. We just improved so much from the beginning of year. We have played together really well.”
“We had a lot of talent coming into the season, both with the junior varsity and the varsity,” Kristjana said. “Everybody had faith.”
She added that after they played the first couple of games on the schedule, they started to click. North Kingstown’s girls’ JV team has romped to 19 victories so far this season and lost once.
“I knew we would do well,” Roma said. “I’m not shocked this has happened, but it wouldn’t have been my first thought.”
La Salle handed the team its only defeat, a nine-point loss in December in Providence.
“It was one of the first games of the year,” Roma said. “We didn’t play together as one team.”
“There was a lot of fear in that game,” Kristjana added. “La Salle is intimidating.”
Roma said it is La Salle’s reputation to intimidate opponents. But since then, the Skippers have avenged that loss twice, trouncing La Salle at home, 62-32, and then knocking the Rams out of the state tournament in the second round.
Kristjana said there is something about La Salle that brought the most out of the Skippers’ determined playmaking. “We feel we sincerely want to beat them, and leave our hearts out on the floor.”
Roma, who plays wing guard, also said she had her best game this year in the rematch at home against the Rams.
The Skippers have worked hard on conditioning, and they had the stamina to keep the press going against La Salle. Roma took the ball away several times. She doesn’t keep track of her stats, but Kristjana estimated Roma came up with more than five steals in that game.
“She’s sneaky,” Kristjana said.
“I’m not the fastest,” Roma added. “I just can see an opportunity.” She’s also good at seeing the whole court. She scored four or five points and had a couple of assists in that game.
Kristjana said she turned in her best JV performance against La Salle in the state tournament game. She usually starts the game and plays the entire first half. She may play in the second half if needed, but the coach tries to rest her so she can be available for the varsity, which plays after the JV.
The girls’ senior varsity has a 13-6 record, good enough for fourth place in the division, Kristjana said. The playoffs start Feb. 28.
“I try to play as hard as I can,” Kristjana said. Usually she will stay on the floor for the 16-minute first half and then sit on the bench for the second half and cheer on her teammates. She’s been getting more minutes in the varsity games recently.
Varsity head coach Robert Simeone said Kristjana is going to be a big factor as she develops her game.
“I need to get stronger,” Kristjana said. She has been working out with weights to build up her strength. “I’ve been working on it and developed some muscle. The bigger I get, the easier it is to play.”
“Coach keeps telling me to elevate,” she added, meaning to jump as high as she can and get over the other players. But she said that the up and down takes a physical toll.
“I’m 6 feet tall right now,” she said. “I’m pretty tall for my age but you have to use height to your advantage. Both our starting post players have used their height to their advantage. They always get the rebound and can put the ball back up, and they’re shorter than me.”