September 22, 2014
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Pats come through late, knock off Vets
KRISTEN GREGORY & BETSY HEIDEL

When the Vets and Pilgrim girls’ basketball teams played each other in the season opener on Dec. 8, the ’Canes pulled out a narrow 47-44 victory.

Last Thursday, in the consolation game of the Coventry Credit Union Holiday Classic, the Pats got their revenge.

After holding a nine-point lead in the second half only to see Vets tie the game with just over three minutes left, Pilgrim got consecutive threes from Danielle LeBlanc and Megan St. Jacques, and then held the ’Canes scoreless the rest of the game to come away with a 39-30 victory.

LeBlanc led all scorers with 14 points, while Stefani Quaine added nine for Pilgrim and St. Jacques followed with eight. Casey Bennett paced Vets with 11, and Kristen Gregory chipped in with nine points.

“The first time we played, they got us by three,” Pilgrim head coach Ian Smith said. “It was disappointing, to be sure. But we made some adjustments. The girls were very focused yesterday and today, this whole tournament. It was nice to get a city win.”

The previous day, Vets had lost 46-26 to West Warwick while Pilgrim fell 44-35 to Coventry. That set up the showdown between the two rivals, and it didn’t disappoint.

After a lackluster first half that saw the Pats take a 14-9 lead into the break, the action picked up late in the second half.

Pilgrim seemed to be thoroughly in control, as LeBlanc hit a short jumper with 7:34 remaining to put her team up 26-17.

The ’Canes, though, still had a run in them.

First, Emily Almonte made a steal and converted a layup at the other end. Bennett rattled home a long jumper on Vets’ next possession, and, after a Pilgrim turnover, Gregory made a jumper to cut the deficit to three at 26-23.

Another Pilgrim turnover gave Vets the ball back and Gregory made a shot from the baseline to make it a one-point game. LeBlanc momentarily stopped the bleeding on the other side with a pull-up jumper, but Bennett came right back and hit a pull-up three to tie the game at 28.

It was the first time the game had been tied since 0-0.

“It was a hard-fought battle,” Vets head coach Owen Paquet said. “I was glad to see the progression on our side.”

LeBlanc scored again on Pilgrim’s possession to give the Pats the lead back once more, but Bennett did the same on Vets’ possession, tying the game at 30.

At the 2:45 mark, however, Pilgrim got hot.

With the ball on the left wing, well beyond the three-point arc, LeBlanc elected to fire up a shot, which she buried to give the Pats the lead back.

“What a shot by Danielle,” Paquet said. “It was a bomb. I wish I really saw where she was, but it was unbelievable.”

The ’Canes immediately turned the ball over, and Pilgrim set out to work the shot clock down with the lead.

Its offense, though, was stagnant, and with the shot clock at one second, St. Jacques was forced to throw up a three from the left wing.

It hit the backboard and banked in, improbably putting Pilgrim up by six points. The consecutive threes were the only three-pointers the Pats made the whole game.

“Megan St. Jacques, she’s been a little scared to shoot as a freshman looking up to the upperclassmen,” Smith said. “She shot today, and had seven or eight points. The shot clock was winding down, she banked it in. You need those breaks.”

The ’Canes still had a shot with just under two minutes left, but they turned the ball over on their next two possessions, and a LeBlanc layup in transition with 50 seconds remaining put the game out of reach.

The victory for Pilgrim was its second of the year, and second over Warwick teams, as it beat Toll Gate on Dec. 21.

“We’re 2-1 against city schools now,” Smith said. “That’s a big deal to the team.”

Pilgrim, which is 0-3 in Division I, was scheduled to play La Salle on Wednesday and then host North Kingstown on Friday at 7 p.m.

The ’Canes have lost six consecutive games since the win over Pilgrim to start the year, and are looking for their first win in D-II action.

They were scheduled to play Wednesday as well, at home against Mt. Hope, before going to Narragansett on Friday for a 7 p.m. tip.


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