By ERIC RUEB
PROVIDENCE – For 30 minutes, the Exeter-West Greenwich girls basketball team played like it was ready to go to the school’s first state championship game.
The last two minutes kept the Knights away from the Ryan Center.
EWG had a lead as big as 14 in the second half and was up eight with two minutes, 30 seconds left before it turned the ball over on seven straight possessions and after giving up the lead the Knights still had a chance but Kate McElroy’s half-court buzzer-beater cruelly went off the glass and off the rim and sent the team to the floor, victims of a heartbreaking 54-53 loss to Bay View in the state semifinals Wednesday night.
“We had them dead to rights,” said EWG coach Steve McGrane, whose teams have been eliminated by the Bengals in four straight postseasons. “We outplayed them for 30 minutes. The last two minutes we just panicked against the press.”
“There was a few times in that game we thought we finally put the cap on the lid,” McElroy said. “Like it showed [Wednesday], you can’t do that. You can’t look at the game as if the games over. With any seconds left, you have to play through it.”
The final two minutes were equal part comeback by Bay View and failure to execute against a press by the Knights.
After a jumper by Bay View’s Yasmeen Luna made it 50-44 with 2:16 left, Bay View brought out its ‘Blue’ press and got the results it wanted. On EWG’s next seven possessions the Bengals forced a double dribble then came up with six steals in a row and forcing a bad pass to go out of bounds. The string started with 2:16 left and ended with 30 seconds left in the game and by then, the Knights were behind 54-50.
“When they stared coming back we knew we needed to play our best,” EWG’s Kathleen Rafanelli said. “We couldn’t turn the ball over and we had just made a lot of turnovers in a row. We needed to stop letting them get in our heads.”
“They jumped right on us; we had no time to think,” McElroy said. “I don’t know what we did, but we just panicked.”
“They started getting aggressive,” said Bay View coach Doug Haynes of his team’s defensive effort. “They got excited the intensity was there and they were looking for a quick double or a quick steal.”
After giving up a lead in the final minutes in the quarterfinals last year against Bay View, the Knights barely kept their composure in the closing seconds even with a chance to tie.
It wasn’t the case Wednesday. Bay View’s Vandell Andrade – who was plagued by foul trouble most of the game but came up huge in the final four minutes – missed a pair of free throws, giving EWG a chance. Jacelyn Harrington brought the ball up court and, with a couple of hands in her face, banked in a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left.
“That was a great shot by J,” McElroy said. “… It was just one more spark we had that had us thinking we were going to come out with a win.”
EWG fouled Andrade with 3.5 seconds left and Andrade missed both attempts. Taylor Buckley rebounded the ball and quickly whipped it to McElroy, who took a couple steps before firing up a shot from just outside halfcourt.
The ball hung for an eternity before hitting the glass, going off the rim and then hitting the floor as McElroy fell to the floor in disbelief.
“Summer league, playing with my brother I’m always fooling around with the half-court shots,” she said. “I’m going to be thinking about that shot for a long time.”
While the Knights have felt Bay View’s wrath in the past, this one was different because for the first time – even after last year’s last-second loss – EWG was confident it was going to win.
“They weren’t intimidated by Bay View whatsoever,’ McGrane said. “The last couple years we were, but they’re a seasoned team and in the last two minutes, we just lost our mind.”
EXETER-WEST GREENWICH 53
Kate McElroy 1-9 0-4 3; Jacelyn Harrington 4-9 0-1 11; Taylor Buckley 4-10 7-8 15; Jess Patalano 5-9 2-2 13; Kathleen Rafanelli 0-2 5-7 5; Brynn Pignataro 0-1 1-2 1; Christine Harrington 1-1 0-0 3; Jen Cicero 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 16-41 15-24 53.
BAY VIEW 54
Christina Palavra 1-10 0-2 2; Johanna Dombrowski 2-11 2-2 8; Yasmeen Luna 2-11 0-0 4; Rachel Battista 4-18 3-4 13; Vandell Andrade 6-10 6-12 18; Rachel Pederzani 0-2 1-2 1; Kristine McCann 0-1 0-0 0; Megan Martin 2-7 0-1 4; MacKenzie Smith 0-1 0-0 0; Nina Anastacio 2-2 0-0 4. TOTALS 19-73 12-23 54.
Halftime: Exeter-West Greenwich 24-18. 3-pointers: Exeter-West Greenwich 6-11 (J. Harrington 3-4, McElroy 1-4, Patalano 1-2, C. Harrington 1-1); Bay View 4-13 (Battista 2-9, Dombrowski 2-3, Luna 0-1). Rebounds: Exeter-West Greenwich 43 (Buckley 14); Bay View 49 (Palavra 13). Assists: Exeter-West Greenwich 11 (McElroy, Rafanelli 4); Bay View 10 (Dombrowski, Luna 4). Turnovers: Exeter-West Greenwich 31 (Rafanelli 8); Bay View 14 (Palavra 4). Steals: Exeter-West Greenwich 8 (J. Harrington 5); Bay View 15 (Dombrowski 6). Blocks: Exeter-West Greenwich 6 (Rafanelli 3); Bay View 1 (Martin 1). Total fouls: Exeter-West Greenwich 17; Bay View 20. Fouled out: J. Harrington.