The No. 3 Pilgrim Lady Patriots were overpowered by the top-seeded Tolman Tigers 37-
26 during the 2019 Girls Division III Basketball Final at Rhode Island College on Sunday afternoon.
Tolman senior Tamara Negron topped all scorers with nine points while her teammates Julia Al-Amir and Thania Santana tallied seven points apiece. Tigers’ seniors Amsatou Diagne and Victoria Percy compiled 16 rebounds each.
Hannah French, a junior guard, led Pilgrim with six points, while Nadine Ogni, a junior forward, and Chanti Van Heyningen, a sophomore guard, added five points each.
Though the D-III season didn’t end the way they wanted, the Lady Pats were happy with their progress since last year.
“I think we’re the hardest working team in the state, so we hang our heads on that,” Pilgrim head coach Scott Bayha said. “We came from three wins last year to all the way here. That’s pretty amazing.”
The Lady Pats finished the regular season with a conference record of 14-3 and went 17-7 overall.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted, but at the same token, if you told me we’d be second in the state at the start of the season I would have been pumped,” Bayha said.
Pilgrim was the visiting team and donned black uniforms while Tolman wore their home whites.
Tolman drew a 1-0 lead two minutes in when Percy sank a free throw after she was fouled by Ogni.
Next, Santana added a runner and upped the Tigers advantage to 3-0.
The Lady Pats got on the board when Ogni made a jumper following an assist from French, which got Pilgrim within 3-2.
Pilgrim knotted the game at 7 with 5:08 left in the period when sophomore guard Alysia Medeiros buried a 3-pointer.
Nonetheless, Al-Amir responded with a trey of her own and Tolman closed the half on a 10-1 run and carried a 17-8 advantage into halftime.
Pilgrim forced Tolman into 41 turnovers throughout the contest, but they couldn’t amass enough points. Tolman’s Percy clogged the middle, with a height of 6’2”, and the Lady Pats felt compelled to hurl jump shots where they went 8 of 63 from the field.
“We never caught back up,” Bayha said. “We couldn’t hit an outside shot to break the zone. They had the height on us in the middle, so we really couldn’t drive with our cuts. So, we tried to extend that zone by hitting outside shots and they just never fell.”
“I’m sure it’s the big scene of it all,” Bayha said. “These girls, they tried their hearts out. They played hard. So, we hung our heads on defense all year and I’m happy with how we played defensively. I think we just couldn’t hit the shots today. It wasn’t our day.”
Pilgrim got the deficit down to six after Ogni opened the second half with an old-fashioned 3-point play.
But, Tolman pushed the lead back up to nine when Percy made a putback, and then, Santana a free throw.
Next, with 6:07 left, the Tigers extended their buffer to 27-13 after deuces from Negron and Santana, as well as three points from Jasmine Wilson.
Tolman constructed its largest lead at 34-17, with two minutes remaining, and the Tigers rolled from there.
To get to the Final, Pilgrim overcame a nine-point deficit in the semifinal to beat Central 23-22. The winning points in that match came from Ogni, who made a pair of clutch free throws with 17.7 seconds remaining and gave the Lady Pats their only lead of the game.
“I was just sitting at that line telling myself that it had to go in,” Ogni said after the semifinal. “I had to do it for my team. And, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about the team. It’s not about the individual and I just needed to make that for our team.”
“Nadine came through,” Bayha added. “Nadine loves basketball. I can tell you those free throws were earned in the street at the basket in front of her house. Because she practices all the time. And I think that did it. And we were dead tied. So, those free throws are tough. It’s tough to hit a free throw when you are running non-stop, and we were running non-stop. So, it was good.”
As the season comes to a close, Pilgrim graduates five seniors in Alexandra Brown, Rachel Buchanan, Kailey Giarrusso, Francesca Maroni and Victoria Tatewosian.
“I lose five very good seniors,” Bayha said. “But, I also have very good young talent coming back. So, we’ll be back here next year.”
Pilgrim is one of 16 teams that have been invited to play in the 2019 Girls Basketball State Championship Tournament. The Lady Pats will be the 16-seed and they will face the D-I Champion and 1st-seeded La Salle Academy Rams on Wednesday at Cranston High School East at 5:30 p.m.