The rematch between the Pilgrim and Warwick Vets girls’ basketball teams on Tuesday didn’t look all that much like the first meeting, but it ended with the same team walking off the court in victory.
After leading from start-to-finish in a non-league match-up on Dec. 28, Vets was forced to battle back from a five-point second-half deficit this time around before coming to life and dominating the tail-end of the game en route to a 47-35 league win.
The ’Canes didn’t shoot particularly well from the field, but they ramped up the pressure when they needed to, forced turnovers and used the extra possessions to pull away.
Pilgrim, which led 28-23 with 10:31 to play, was out-scored 24-7 the rest of the way.
“We’re still learning, we’re still improving and that’s the next step this team needs to make is when things start to slide, it’s not the end of the world,” Pilgrim head coach Ian Smith said. “You’ve got to fight back. We panicked, we let it go and that’s where it ended up.”
Vets forced 39 Pilgrim turnovers, compared to 37 the first time the two teams played, in improving to 2-1 in Division II-Central. It was the second straight league win for the ’Canes, who also beat Mt. Pleasant on Monday 41-31.
It wasn’t the prettiest victory, but Vets did what it had to do late in the game to get the win and jump above .500. Its one league loss was to St. Raphael back on Dec. 20.
“We dug deep on this one,” Vets head coach Owen Paquet said. “It was nice to pull this one off. Inter-city win, it was big for us.”
Pilgrim was playing its first league game of the season and its first game at all since the first Vets game, as it has had two games postponed due to weather since then. It is now 0-1 in D-II-Central.
“It’s been a funny season with the weather and everything else,” Smith said. “Today had a feel of the first game of the year, aside from being a league game. We were prepared, we just made some mistakes and then we made more mistakes.”
The breaking point came after Pilgrim took that five-point lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Vets came back down the court and got a bucket from Jenna Fontaine to cut the deficit to three points and then turned on the press.
The Pats couldn’t handle it. They didn’t score again for four full minutes, missing three shots but more importantly turning the ball over seven times during the run. Vets wasn’t overly efficient itself, but the turnovers gave it chances and eventually the offense started to click.
At the 8:56 mark, Casey Bennett scored inside to make it a one-point game, and on the next possession the ’Canes got two offensive rebounds before Emily Almonte scored to give them the lead at 29-28, their first since 6-5.
“The fight underneath the basket for the rebounds, loose balls, was key for us,” Paquet said. “Before this game started that was our game plan – every loose ball, every rebound was something. It really made the difference.”
Vets got another bucket from Almonte on a steal and layup a few possessions later to make it 31-28 before Pilgrim finally ended the drought with a jumper by Hannah Page.
Two minutes later, Vets made it 33-30 on a layup by Katherine Raposo and a putback by Almonte made it 35-30 with 3:33 to play.
“For whatever reason, we stopped rebounding for a significant part of the second half and that’s why we gave up 30 points in the second half,” Smith said.
The next time down the court for Pilgrim, Page was called for a travel and then a technical foul for slamming the ball down on the court. That gave Vets two free throws, and Bennett made them both. On the ensuing possession, Lauren Almonte made two free throws and Vets led 39-30.
Time began to dwindle, forcing Pilgrim to foul, and it continued to foul Bennett – Vets’ best free throw shooter. A senior, Bennett hit all 10 of her free throws down the stretch to finish the job. She ended with a game-high 14 points despite shooting just 2-of-24 from the field.
“Casey Bennett hit some major foul shots at the end of the game to ice it for us,” Paquet said. “She’s really grown as a player the last four years. It’s been a pleasure to coach her.”
Pilgrim missed 11of its final 13 shots.
In the first half, the Pats were much more efficient, going up 7-6 on a jumper by Alexia Martins and never losing the lead until the second. Alexa Annotti had seven points in the half, and Pilgrim led 19-17 at halftime.
“We had another good half,” Smith said. “We’ve had one good half in every single game. That’s how I know it’s inexperience and learning. We’ve got to figure out how to do two halves.”
Megan St. Jacques led the Pats with eight points, followed by Annotti’s seven and six from Maddie Craik. Martins added five, while Page had four. Tayla Ferreira and Haley Donahay had two each, with Erin Plowman scoring one.
Bennett had 14 for Vets, Emily Almonte had eight and Lauren Almonte and Raposo had seven apiece. Fontaine had six and Ricki Beaufort had five.
Vets’ next game was scheduled for Wednesday against Moses Brown, with results unavailable at press time. On Friday, it will play at Classical at 3:30 p.m.
Pilgrim will host St. Raphael today at 7 p.m.