CENTRAL FALLS â€“ There were a fair share of turnovers and some sloppy play by both teams, something thatâ€™s common for the first game of the season.
But after 32 minutes of basketball in Fridayâ€™s non-leaguer between North Smithfield and host Central Fall, both coaches were satisfied with the effort â€“ one that equated to a 45-34 victory in the Warriorsâ€™ favor.
â€śI was very impressed, very impressed with the girlsâ€™ energy,â€ť said first-year coach Jayar Santos, who replaces longtime Warrior mentor Joe Handy.
â€śI think they played really well for their first game of the season,â€ť said N.S. coach Alisha Bannon, who begins her inaugural year as the bench boss after three seasons as an assistant under former coach David Ruff. â€śObviously, they had some first-game jitters, but overall, as a whole, I think they played pretty good defense. They have to learn to move the ball a little bit betterâ€¦As soon as we get that rolling, we will have a pretty good shot this year.â€ť
Senior Jennifer Cabral led all scorers with 14 points and fellow classmate Shariela Jiminez netted 12 points and controlled the defense for the Warriors, who overcame a 20-16 halftime deficit with a dominating second half.
Central Falls did its damage with two strong runs in the latter half. Trailing by a score of 22-18, the Warriors scored 11 unanswered points, including five from Jiminez. After she converted on a three-point play after a strong move to the hoop, Cabral gave C.F. the lead for good by forcing her way through the Northmenâ€™s defense for a layup and a 23-22 advantage. Shortly after, it was Jiminez who would do nearly the same.
Senior Sasha Gonzalez and sophomore Selena Martinez would each score a bucket to finish off the run and put the Warriors ahead by a score of 29-22.
Spurred by five points from junior Keila Strick, North Smithfield would answer with a 6-0 streak to get within a point (29-28).
But the Warriors would put the game away with 12 unanswered points and a convincing 41-28 lead with less than three minutes left. Defense played a big part in the second spurt.
â€śIt was all defense,â€ť said Santos. â€śIt was hard work by our twin towers (Gonzalez and Cabral) underneath. Rebounding, thatâ€™s what we stressed all week and thatâ€™s what got us together. Shariela pretty much carried us the whole game, defensively and offensively. She carried us today.â€ť
â€śI thought we could have stopped them by pressing,â€ť said Bannon, about the Warriorsâ€™ second run. â€śI donâ€™t think they are ready for the press yet. They are having a hard time getting back on defense. With a little more conditioning, by the middle of the season they should be able to press.â€ť
North Smithfield was keyed by 11 points from Strick, one of several key returning starters from last yearâ€™s team that finished second in Division III-North with a record of 15-3. The Northmen were ousted in the semifinals with a 43-39 overtime loss to Central.
Bannon is looking forward to this winterâ€™s campaign
â€śI have a really fast team and they work hard and they play great defense,â€ť she said. â€śWe have been working with the same offense for a few years and itâ€™s good because now they are starting to get into the swing of things and they are finally putting it in motion.â€ť
Central Fall enters the 2011-12 season after finishing 6-12 in Div. II-North and missing the postseason. The Warriors return most of last yearâ€™s team, including Jiminez, Cabral, Gonzalez and twin sisters and seniors Anjelique and Brianna Cooley
â€śA lot of these girls were part of the team last year and a lot of them were juniors,â€ť Santos said.