Defense kept the Warwick Vets girls’ basketball team in the game most of the way on Friday night against Johnston. Offense kept the ’Canes from doing anything more than that.
Johnston broke open a tight game midway through the second half to take a 15-point lead and never let it get back to single digits, eventually winning 57-43. Vets got 20 points from Casey Bennett, but didn’t have another player in double figures and went on prolonged offensive droughts that allowed the Panthers to stay out in front.
Vets is now 2-4 in Division II-Central, and hasn’t scored more than 47 points in any of those games. The 43 it scored on Friday was actually the second-most it’s put up this year, but it was not enough to keep up with the high-powered Panthers.
Katrina Mattera had 25 points for Johnston, while Alex DiRaimo added 14 and Isabella DiRaimo chipped in with seven. Johnston is now 5-0 in D-II-North and has won eight consecutive games overall.
“The score looks like it wasn’t a close game but I felt like it was a four-possession game,” Vets head coach Owen Paquet said. “If we could have made a couple more foul shots or a couple more shots it would have been a closer game.”
Johnston came into the game on the heels of scoring 67 and 65 points its last two times on the court. Vets’ defense held the Panthers to just 24 points at halftime and limited the scoring of Isabella DiRaimo, but the ’Canes also turned the ball over 22 times – 14 in the second half. They also scored only 16 points in the first half, and went into the break trailing by eight despite the defensive success.
“We’re trying to keep the turnovers down,” Paquet said. “If we lessen the turnovers we can start competing a little harder in the long run.”
In the second half, the Panthers started to find their rhythm. Mattera scored eight points in the first three minutes of the half, and Johnston opened up a 33-20 lead
“They picked it up in the second half,” Johnston head coach Chris Corsinetti said. “The intensity seemed to be there a little bit later in the second half.”
At that point, the game was still within reach. It could have tightened up considerably too, if Vets could have capitalized on a three-minute Johnston scoring drought. The Panthers turned the ball over three times in a row and missed a shot, giving them four consecutive empty possessions.
The ’Canes got nothing to show for it. They turned the ball over three times in that span, got a missed three from Ricki Beaufort and a missed runner from Bennett. The score was still 33-20 when Johnston got two points from DiRaimo to extend its lead to 35-20.
“It’s nice to see that they actually have the potential to score,” Paquet said. “Too bad a lot of their shots don’t go down. They’re taking them, and that’s what we want. To take a little off Casey.”
Again though, Vets had a golden opportunity to get right back in the game when Johnston went on another drought, missing three shots and turning the ball over twice in a five-possession span that saw it net zero points.
For the second time, the ’Canes didn’t take advantage. On its six possessions during that time, it turned the ball over four times and missed three shots.
And eventually Johnston’s offense got going again. Vets got two points on free throws by Lauren Almonte before Kristina DiMascio hit a jumper for Johnston and Jenna Pizi hit one as well. Mattera scored inside and Lauren Tedesco made a free throw.
Vets got six points of its own during that time, yet still trailed 42-28 with six minutes to play.
A minute later, the ’Canes had one last chance to really get back in the game. Corsinetti was whistled for a technical foul, and then DiRaimo was called for one as well, giving Vets four free throws and the ball.
Trailing 44-30, Bennett hit just two of the four foul shots and then Vets missed a shot on the ensuing possession. With the potential to score six or seven points on that trip down the court, Vets scored just two.
“We’re putting up some big numbers offensively,” Corsinetti said. “Defensively, I’m a stubborn man-to-man coach, but we’re playing it well.”
The Panthers came down the court and scored on their next two possessions, taking a 16-point lead at 48-32. The ’Canes never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Lauren Almonte had nine points for Vets, while Victoria Ferri added four. Kat Raposo and Beaufort had three each.
In the first half, Vets led 3-2 and then never again. Johnston led by as many as 12 at 24-12 before the ’Canes closed the half with four straight points on a putback by Ferri and two free throws by Bennett.
Vets was scheduled to be back in action on Monday against Classical, a team that it lost to 41-30 back on Jan. 17. The result of that game was unavailable at press time. On Wednesday, Vets will go to Lincoln for a 7 p.m. game and then play its third game of the week on Thursday at St. Ray’s at 7 p.m.
“We’re trying to emphasize that the first couple minutes of each half, every time you step on the floor it matters,” Paquet said.