It's been a rough stretch for the Warwick Vets girls' basketball team, but on Tuesday night in Woonsocket, the Hurricanes saw that good things can still happen when everything clicks.
They hope it happens again.
Casey Bennett poured in 27 points, freshman Kat Raposo chipped in 12 and the 'Canes totaled a season-high in points while shining on defense in a 61-41 victory over Mount St. Charles. Vets improved to 4-6 while the Mounties fell to 2-5.
“It was definitely our best game of the year,” said Bennett, a senior captain. “We jelled together really nicely. Everyone was doing their part and we really meshed.”
Coming into Tuesday, Vets had lost two straight and five of its last six. In its last two games – losses to Lincoln and St. Raphael – Vets didn't even crack the 30-point mark.
Everything changed Tuesday.
After falling behind 6-1, the 'Canes went on an 11-0 run to take the lead and stayed in front for the rest of the game. They had an answer every time the Mounties threatened in the first half, and in the second half, they out-scored Mount 24-12 over the first eight minutes to pull away.
Vets made eight three-pointers on the night – getting four from Bennett, two from Raposo and two from Ricky Beaufort – and shot 44 percent from the field.
“We clicked on all cylinders tonight,” said Vets head coach Owen Paquet. “It was nice to see everything pan out – the chemistry was working and our nucleus is really coming together. And it helped that the shots were falling tonight. That's what we've missed all year. We really couldn't buy buckets in half our losses. It's nice to see that we can do it.”
At the other end, the 'Canes set the stage for the hot-shooting with an active effort. A packed-in 2-3 zone mitigated Mount's height advantage and quick hands helped spark a parade of turnovers. Mount gave the ball away 26 times, compared to only 15 for Vets, which has been losing the turnover battle all year.
“We're a quick team,” Bennett said. “We always give 110 percent on the press. We want to push and go and use our quickness.”
The start of the game offered no clues of what was to come. Vets went more than three minutes without a field goal while the Mounties opened up their 6-1 lead. But Bennett buried a three with 12:40 left. After a turnover, she hit another one 40 seconds later, putting Vets in front 7-6.
It was just the beginning.
Raposo hit a baseline jumper, Lauren Almonte muscled in a shot in the lane and then hit one of two free throws a minute later to cap an 11-0 burst.
The Mounties looked like they had a run in them when they scored four quick points, but Almonte scored a second-chance bucket and Bennett turned a steal into a layup that pushed the lead back to six.
Mount stayed within striking distance for the rest of the first half, but Vets remained in control. Leading by four with 1:11 left, Vets got a three from Beaufort at the top of the key to take their largest lead thus far. They went to halftime up 26-21.
“All year, I feel like we've been on the same page,” Paquet said. “I've seen the good ball movement. We were getting nice looks and the shots were falling tonight.”
And the second half was all Vets.
Emily Almonte started the frame with a putback before an old-fashioned three-point play by Bennett. Mount got its deficit back to six, but Bennett buried a three after an offensive rebound and Emily Almonte hit a short jumper after a Mount turnover to put Vets up by 11.
From there, the lead just kept growing. Raposo and Bennett hit threes and Bennett scored on the break as the cushion ballooned to 15. After a four-point burst by Mount, the 'Canes turned giveaways into points on three straight possessions. Raposo scored on the break, Bennett hit a jumper and Lauren Almonte scored in the lane. When the dust settled, Vets led 50-33 with 8:26 left and could essentially put it on cruise control.
“That was nice to see,” Paquet said. “The press was able to execute. The girls kept the energy up. Once we got the momentum, we definitely pushed, pushed, pushed. They didn't have a true ball-handler, so we wanted to take advantage of that.”
Bennett's 27 points were a season-high. Mount used a box-and-one on her in the second half, but to no avail.
“She was effective,” Paquet said. “She was on her game.”
Beaufort chipped in eight, Lauren Almonte had seven and Emily Almonte scored four. Raposo provided a big lift with 12.
“Kat really is stepping up her game,” Paquet said. “She's feeding into the whole system and she's starting to come around big time.”
The win put the 'Canes into third place in Division II-Central. They'll try to build on the victory Friday when they visit North Providence, who's 4-4 in II-North.
“We're headed to North Providence so we need to beat their press,” Paquet said. “That will be a game-breaker for us if we can't.”