Wins haven’t been easy to come by for the Warwick Vets girls’ basketball team this season, so the ’Canes know not to take for granted the ones they do get – no matter how they get them.
On Monday, Vets got just its second victory of the season by gutting out a 29-24 win over rival Toll Gate. The ’Canes shot just 14 percent from the floor and only made nine total field goals, but at the end of the night, they were just happy to have the higher score.
“The little things, we’re still working on all the time,” Vets head coach Owen Paquet said. “But overall, their attitude, their effort, is strong. I’m just glad to see we came out with another win.”
Toll Gate saw perhaps its best chance at a victory this season slip away, as it was within one point in the final three minutes, but couldn’t draw any closer thanks to missed shots and turnovers.
Offense was tough to come by for the Titans, too, as they turned the ball over 28 times and made just seven field goals.
Toll Gate dropped to 0-16 in Division II. Vets is 2-13, with both of its wins coming over Toll Gate.
But Titans’ head coach John Paolino couldn’t fault his team’s effort from the opening tip.
“It’s a tough one, and the thing is, they’re disappointed,” Paolino said. “I’m happy they’re disappointed. They wanted to win, and they came that close to winning. That’s a learning process too, how to win those games.”
Vets held a narrow 14-13 lead at halftime, but got a three-point play from Liz Bailey for the first points of the second half to extend the lead to four. A jumper by Bailey gave Vets its largest lead of the night at 19-13.
“Offensively in the second half, we came out strong,” Paquet said.
Quickly though, everything slowed down.
Toll Gate got four points from Laura McGuire over a five-possession span to get back within two, before Vets scored three more points on a free throw by Victoria Flynn and a jumper by Emily Almonte. A jumper by Almonte with 8:21 left put the ’Canes back in front by five, 24-19.
But the Titans wouldn’t go away.
They held Vets scoreless over the next five minutes with tough man-to-man defense, while chipping away at the lead.
“I think defensively, we did play a lot better,” Toll Gate senior Kate McCaughey said. “There was a lot of good help defense.”
Courtney Sheridan hit one free throw, and McGuire did the same two minutes later. One more free throw from Sheridan at the 3:37 mark brought Toll Gate within two points at 24-22.
“I don’t think we were out-physicaled,” Paolino said. “We told them at the beginning of the game, ‘They were physical, you need to be physical this time.’ They didn’t back down.”
Katie Gregory finally broke the drought for Vets when her free throw put the ’Canes back up by three, but with 2:45 to play, Miranda Coleman made two free throws to get the Titans within 25-24.
From that point on, it was a battle.
The teams exchanged misses on four straight possessions until Vets’ leading scorer, Casey Bennett, was fouled with 1:13 left. She made them both – her only points of the second half – for a 27-24 lead.
Toll Gate couldn’t answer, but Vets missed a quick shot of its own. Toll Gate got it back and Nicole Fraser was fouled, but she missed the front end of a one-and-one. There was a jump ball on the rebound, and Vets was awarded possession.
With 34.5 seconds left and a chance to ice the game, though, Bennett took a three-pointer that was off the mark, giving Toll Gate a chance.
As soon as they got the ball, however, the Titans lost it out of bounds.
“In crucial points of the game, (turnovers are) still a problem,” Paolino said. “We’ll just keep working on it.”
Toll Gate fouled Vets’ Katie Gregory with 9.9 seconds left, but she calmly knocked down both free throws to seal the victory.
“Katie Gregory iced them with two great free throws,” Paquet said. “It is great to see her leadership. She’s a captain this year, and she’s really stepping up. It’s nice to see.”
Coleman was Toll Gate’s leading scorer with eight points, while McGuire had six, Fraser had five, Ingrid Freeman had three and Sheridan had two.
For Vets, Bennett struggled shooting the ball but still wound up with a game-high 10 points. Almonte scored six points, Bailey added five, Lauren Almonte had four, Katie Gregory had three and Flynn scored one.
Toll Gate led only twice in the game, at 5-4 and at 13-2.
The ’Canes were scheduled to play at Prout on Wednesday, with the results unavailable at press time. Following that, they have two more games to finish the regular season. They’ll play at Rogers on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and then close things out with Tiverton at home on Feb. 22.
Toll Gate was also scheduled to play on Wednesday, on the road at Rogers, before ending its season today at Tiverton at 7 p.m.