PAWTUCKET — With Alumni Hall transformed into an atmosphere befitting Mardi Gras and a big-time opponent on hand for the regular-season finale, St. Raphael’s lone girls basketball 12th grader was determined to make it a memorable Senior Night.
Paige O’Brien got a proper sendoff and the Saints clinched the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Division I tournament after dispatching fellow contender North Kingstown, 59-49, on Monday night. SRA overcame a slow start, caught fire toward the end of the first half to lead by 17 points at halftime, then managed to hold serve despite the Skippers hitting seven 3-pointers during the latter half.
St. Raphael (16-2 Division II) avenged a 12-point loss that took place at North Kingstown’s place back on Jan. 13. Both teams entered the rematch tied atop the Division I-C standings. Don’t be surprised if a third or a fourth meeting is added to the schedule before the season’s final chapter is written.
“I would think so,” said Skippers head coach Bob Simone about the likelihood of his team running into the Saints at some point during the divisional playoffs and maybe even again after that in the open state tournament.
O’Brien had the pregame festivities to herself, then went out and notched 12 points and six rebounds. She notched a couple of three-pointers during SRA’s tide-turning 23-3 run that concluded the first half.
“Once we got on a roll, we made sure that we didn’t stop,” said O’Brien.
Every time O’Brien made something happen, the student section would take picture of her face that was placed on a stick and wave the object with glee. The gym featured balloons and streams – naturally, they were purple and gold – with select folks walking around in purple T-shirts that featured O’Brien’s number (5) in gold trim on the back.
“It’s been fun being the only senior but it’s also awkward when you’re talking about things like Senior Night. In the end, it all worked out,” said O’Brien.
Added SRA head coach Tammy Drape, “That was the nicest part of the evening … seeing Paige have a strong game on her Senior Night.”
Tatum Forbes carried St. Raphael’s offense for much of the first half and ended up with a game-high 16 points. Amaya Dowdy came close to achieving a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and seven blocks. North Kingstown received 11 points apiece from Maggie Schwab and Jordan Moreau.
It was the Skippers (15-3 Division I) who drew first blood behind a 10-0 run that saw the visitors repeatedly pound the offensive glass. The Saints responded with nine straight points to grab an 11-10 lead before it was NK’s turn to respond. Back-to-back threes by Katelyn Haberle and Jillian Rogers staked the Skippers to an 18-15 advantage, but that’s when the home team seized control in a major way.
When Elizabeth Bruno hit a three in the final minute, the Saints found themselves in the midst of a 23-0 run that was simply the result of turning good defense into even better offense. SRA hits six straight shots and had North Kingstown on the run and then some before Moreau nailed a three right before halftime.
The Saints maintained their double-digit lead well into the second half until the 6:30 mark when Schwab scored inside after Casey Westall nailed two threes. Now up 50-41, the Saints received a surprise as Dowdy hit from long range and Bruno and O’Brien followed with baskets that once again put the game out of reach. NK managed just three baskets after moving to within nine points.
“If we controlled the rebounds the first half, I thought we would control the game,” said Simeone. “We did that for the first five minutes, then they hit some shots.”
The Skippers made some adjustments, most notably on the defensive end as they held Forbes to just two points after she collected seven field goals during the opening half. The junior, however, impacted the game in other areas and received enough help from her teammates as SRA collected its 11th straight win.
“I know Bob is a very good coach and told Tatum that they would be coming for her during the second half,” said Drape.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
NORTH KINGSTOWN (49): Katelyn Haberle 3 0-0 8, Audrey Martone 1 0-0 2, Casey Westall 3 0-0 9, Maggie Schwab 5 1-2 11, Jillian Rogers 3 0-0 8, Jordan Moreau 4 0-0 11, Carolyn Lafferty 0 0-0 0, Emma Michaud 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 1-2 49.
ST. RAPHAEL (59): Elizabeth Bruno 3 2-2 9, Tatum Forbes 8 0-0 16, Chloe Rayko 1 0-0 2, Paige O’Brien 5 0-0 12, Kaylee Mulligan 0 0-0 0, Tatyana Vicente 2 2-2 6, Amaya Dowdy 6 1-1 14. Totals: 25 5-5 59.
Halftime: SRA 38-21
Three-point field goals: NK 10 (Jordan Moreau 3, Casey Westall 3, Katelyn Haberle 2, Jillian Rogers); SRA 4 (Paige O’Brien 2, Elizabeth Bruno, Amaya Dowdy).