Playoffs are goal of girls’ varsity team
The North Kingstown girls’ varsity basketball team began its season with one blowout win and two close losses over the last nine days. After losing to La Salle Academy in the season opener by the slimmest of margins, 55-54, the Skippers bounced back with a 41-point win over Cranston East, 55-14. But a 59-50 loss to Westerly Tuesday put the Skippers at 1-2 for the season.
Head coach Bob Simeone said he expected a tough battle from Westerly, but the girls should have won the game against La Salle, even though the Rams had home court advantage.
The Skippers had the lead late in the game – 44-40 with six minutes to go – but La Salle roared back and forced mistakes.
“We should have beaten them,” said Simeone. “But it’s early in the season. We are going to make mistakes.”
Even with the two early division losses, Simeone is optimistic. He believes the Skippers will be playoff bound by the end of the season. “Our goal is definitely the playoffs,” he said, adding that it will take an entire team to make the tournament.
According to Simeone, the team concept is “we.”
Given the height advantage the Skippers will enjoy over most of their opponents, the team should rank with the top five teams in Rhode Island, Simeone said. North Kingstown’s girls are a lot taller this year compared to last year’s squad.
According to Simeone, Exeter- West Greenwich is the only team that will outdo the Skippers in size. They have multiple 6-foottall players, he said.
Westerly and La Salle also belong on the list of five top teams in the state, he said, along with EWG and Barrington.
The Skippers have a solid roster with 10 players on varsity, and the sophomores and juniors dominate. Only one returning starter, Marissa Carville, is a senior. She plays forward.
Stars on the team are Ali Barton, a guard who leads the team in scoring, and Bridget Soares, a junior, who plays power forward. Other standouts include sophomore guards Amanda Bednarick (“a deadly shooter”) and Sara Murray.
“I’m very excited about this group,” he said. While there are currently no first-year players on the team, Simeone said there are a couple freshmen looking to make the jump to varsity.
Brenda Westberry coaches the junior varsity team and helps out at the varsity level. This year the freshman girls’ team was cut due to budget problems. The freshmen who tried out for basketball went to the JV team instead.
Westberry has nine freshmen and one sophomore on the JV team. They played together over the summer and did not win a single game. But Westberry said they worked on making the transition from middle school to the high school game, which is faster. Their hard work has paid off. So far they are 3-0.
“They are a great group of girls,” Westberry said.
Jamestown’s Roma Patel has moved up from the JV team to play varsity. She is a “defensive specialist,” Simeone said, and she is sent into the game to stop players from scoring.
“And she usually does,” he added. She is filling in at the guard position and fighting for playing time right now. In the early going, the players who are the offensive threats have been getting more minutes.
Another islander, Kristjana Mc- Carthy, a junior, is starting at center. The Skippers’ coaches have high hopes for her. According to Simeone, she could become the best center in the state.
“She has real soft hands,” he said. “She is very strong around the hoop.” Last year, the opposing players battled her for rebounds and were stronger, but that’s not the case this year.
Kristjana also improved her game and built up strength. The whole team has been working out in the weight room, he said, and Kristjana has put on some muscle.
“She’s matured a lot,” he said.
Kristjana last year was a substitute on the varsity squad and also played junior varsity. During the playoffs against Bay View and St. Raphael’s Academy, she had two big games and made an impression.
“She came out of her shell,” said Simeone.
Westberry said no one should underestimate Kristjana’s competitive drive.
“You cannot dismiss her intensity,” she said. “The sky’s the limit for her.”
According to Westberry, in the JV tournament last year against Bay View, Kristjana put the team on her back. “She gives you 32 minutes,” she said. “Kristjana dominated the first half.”
This year, Westberry said, the coaches are looking to Kristjana for leadership. She has taken the time to connect with the JV players.
One Jamestown player – Anna “Torrey” Martin is on the JV team. Westberry said she expects several Lawn Avenue School players to join the JV squad next year.
The Skippers next game is Thursday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. in Ponaganset.