NORTH KINGSTOWN- Had the Oakers beaten the Westerly Bulldogs in last week’s D-II semifinals, they would have earned a showdown with Classical two days later at Rhode Island College for the right to claim the title.
A 52-28 loss to Westerly put an end to that possibility, but fast forward six days, and Coventry got the chance to face the Purple nonetheless, with the two teams squaring off against one another in the Sweet 16 round of the State Tournament.
Leading 40-36 with 4:59 left in regulation, Coventry looked poised for a nail-biting finish against a team that finished with the same 13-4 mark on the year as them, only to see those aspirations slip away.
Classical would regain control of the game from there, ending play on a 12-0 run in a 48-40 final. The loss brought an official end to the season for the Oakers, while their opponents move on to the Elite Eight where they will face South Kingstown on Saturday afternoon at RIC.
“They’re good. There are no two ways about it. We knew that going in,” Coventry head coach Donna Beaudoin said of the opposition.
The difference in the game was very slight.
“A few more of our shots go in or we get some of those defensive rebounds, who knows what would have happened, but it is what it is in the end,” she said.
Point guard Nina Karlin posted a game-high 16 points for Classical in the win, while Melanie Jimenez recorded a double double (14 points, 22 rebounds), proving to be a difficult force underneath the basket for Coventry to contend with.
Jasmine DePina also reached double figures on the night, scoring 12 points for the winning side.
For Coventry, Elena Santilli led the way with a team-high 11 points in her final game, while junior Madison Dessert followed with 10 of her own. Seniors Loren and Jordan Messier recorded six and two points, while classmate Rylee Campbell had four, fouling out of play in the final couple of minutes.
After managing just nine points in the opening half against Westerly last week, the Oakers faired only slightly better on Wednesday, as they found themselves down 22-14 at the break against Classical.
An early 7-2 run to begin the game hinted at early offensive success for Coventry, but the team found themselves getting outscored 20-7 from there headed into the locker room.
It was in the second half that they began to gain their offensive stride.
After DePina gave opened up the scoring, giving Classical their first double digit lead of the night at 24-14, Coventry began to see their own shots begin to fall.
A pair of threes by Santilli helped spark a 10-4 run, pulling the Oakers to within four points at 28-24.
Mikayla Gaulin drained one of her two threes as a part of a seven-point night to make it 36-34 before Santilli’s three along the baseline gave Coventry their first lead of the half at 37-36. Loren Messier followed it up with a three of her own, making it 40-36.
“It was the usual for us. They didn’t stop fighting, they played hard the entire game, they came back,” Beaudoin said of her team’s surge.
Unfortunately for them, they were unable to keep it going in the final several minutes.
“They hit some shots at the end and we just didn’t,” she said of Classical’s 12-0 run to end the game.
Jimenez tied the game, 40-40 before Olivia Ruano put the Purple out in front for good as part of a six-point night.
Though the final several minutes were challenging for them to witness, Beaudoin had high praise for her team on both the night and the season as a whole.
“They worked hard and did everything we asked them to do. They had a great season,” she said.