2013-02-21 / News

Girls’ basketball to play season finale Thursday

Skippers hope to build momentum for playoffs
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

The North Kingstown High School girls’ varsity basketball team will try to avenge a loss when the Skippers battle Exeter- West Greenwich Thursday in the final game of the regular season.

The Scarlet Knights are the top team in Division ISouth, and the Skippers are ranked third.

The girls’ varsity (13-7, 9-7 league) lost 62-43 to the 18-1 Scarlet Knights on the road Feb. 5, but beaten. on Thursday, Feb. 21, the Skippers will have the home-court advantage.

The state tournament starts Feb. 26. Coach Robert Simeone anticipated he would know the playoff seeding Tuesday night after the Chariho game, which the Skippers won 65-39.

Jamestown’s Kristjana McCarthy said the Skippers still think they can beat anybody, but the players understand their team didn’t do all the things it needed to do this year to play its best basketball.

“We didn’t put some of the pieces in place to actually win everything this year,” the junior said. “We realize that’s what happened this year, and next year we will be a force to be reckoned with.”

While Kristjana is optimistic about the 2013-14 season, she still thinks her team has a fighter’s chance this year.

“We have a long road ahead of us, and it will be difficult, but I know we can beat the teams we haven’t beaten,” she said.

The Skippers lost to La Salle (17-2, 16-1) by one point in a game on the Rams’ home court, and they lost by single digits both times they played Westerly, the only other teams beside EWG that sits atop them in the standings.

She said in the first game against Westerly on Dec. 18, even though North Kingstown lost 59-50, it was one of the team’s best efforts of the season.

“We played really strong, and we didn’t give up ground,” she said. ”We stayed with them and played really well together.”

Jamestown’s Roma Patel is also playing on the girls’ varsity team. She had a good effort against East Greenwich earlier this month.

“I got some playing time, and I actually scored a basket,” said Roma, who Simeone called a defensive specialist earlier in the year. Roma scored on a layup after she drove to the hoop.

According to Roma, she thought the team’s best outing was the first game against La Salle.

“That really stood out to me,” she said. “We played well, moved the ball really nicely, and worked together as a team.”

The Skippers lost the game by one point, but they may have a chance to avenge the loss in the playoffs.

“Once the playoffs start, it’s a whole new season,” said assistant coach Brenda Westberry. She also pointed out that whatever happens, the Skippers are a young team and they are full of potential for next year.

In fact, the Skippers are losing only two seniors to graduation. The rest of the team will come back, including Kristjana, who coaches say she can develop into the best center in Rhode Island.

“We are really working with young talent,” Westberry said.

The Skippers were guaranteed home-court advantage in the early round after knocking off South Kingstown on senior night, 48-31.

Westberry, who also coaches junior varsity, said the JV team finished the season 13-7 and made the state tournament. The squad received a bye in the first round due to its performance in last year’s tournament.

The JV postseason tournament is always tough, said Westberry, because it’s scheduled during the regular season. On the Saturday when the Skippers received a bye in the postseason tourney, the team actually played a regular season home game against Barrington. Then on Sunday, they traveled to Bay View Academy and were eliminated by La Salle.

Westberry said there were nine freshmen and one sophomore on the JV squad this season. North Kingstown cut the freshman team to save money, and the decision has had an impact on the program, she said. Westberry coached the JV players in a summer league in 2012. They didn’t win a single game, but they kept battling.

“We knew that would be to our benefit,” she said.

Five of the JV players – Daniela Went, Kate Ziegler, Brooke McElroy and Andrea Luisi, all freshmen, and sophomore Sara Murray – could move up to varsity next year. The five have played a few minutes in the varsity games this season as “swing” players, and because of the state championships, they stand to gain some varsity playoff experience, too.

“They have a chance at another postseason,” she said. “Andrea, Sara and Brooke are our future at the varsity level.”

They all play guard.

“Katie and Daniela are post players,” Westberry said. “Katie has some exceptional abilities. At 5-foot-7, she has not finished growing yet.”

Westberry said the JV’s best game this season was a 39-36 come-from-behind win at Cumberland on Jan. 25.

She has told the team repeatedly that JV rules allow a school to start varsity players during the first half of the game. Cumberland opted to do that, and the Skippers struggled.

“It was 19-9 at the half, and we just couldn’t seem to get it going,” Westberry said. “But the kids fought hard, and one of our freshman, Melia Dion, hit four 3-pointers in a row and scored 14 points. That sparked the rest of the team.”

Jamestown’s Tori Martin, who is turning 15 and stands 5-foot-8, played the post on the JV squad. She played on the Lawn Avenue School basketball team and is the only islander on junior varsity. High school basketball is a different game than she played at middle school, she said.

“It’s much faster than middle school, and it’s a lot more work,” she said. “But I like it.”

Tori, who also plays varsity field hockey and lacrosse, said her defense is the best part of her game.

On Wednesday night, the boys’ varsity team (21-2 overall) started its quest for the state title with a 6 p.m. tipoff at East Greenwich High in the quarterfinal round against Bishop Hendricken. Results were not available at press time. The Skippers are the No. 2 seed in the tournament behind top-ranked La Salle. The team received a bye in the first round and automatically advanced.

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