WOONSOCKET — Three starters graduated from last year’s team that compiled 14 league victories and one of its key returning starters was out with an injury.
Still, that didn’t stop Mount St. Charles Academy from snaring a victory in its Division II-North opener.
Senior Alyssa Rossi netted a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds as Mount overcame a 10-point deficit at halftime and defeated Moses Brown, 42-37, on Tuesday night.
The Mounties were playing the contest without three-year varsity player Maria Saia, who injured her hip in a non-leaguer against Johnston last Thursday. For the first half, her absence and leadership appeared to affect her teammates.
The Mounties were plagued by a handful of turnovers and missed shots and trailed 22-12 at the break.
“We talked in the locker room. They just seemed tense. I said, just relax and go out and play,” noted MSC head coach Nina Morey. “We had Lauren (Mallon), who was injured and we used her minutes sparingly and Maria (Saia) is someone that they rely on. With her out, I think they spent some time trying to find themselves. It took them a little to do that. We recovered obviously in the second half. Our defense was excellent and they calmed down.”
The Mounties utilized their size advantage over the Quakers with Rossi and Mallon (eight rebounds) leading the rebound war. Mount nearly doubled the amount of boards by Moses Brown with 34 for the game.
A good portion of that total came in the first five minutes of the second half where the Mounties immediately got back into the game with a 14-2 run. Six of the first eight points came from the free throw line where Mount put the Quakers in foul trouble right away.
The Quakers had five fouls after just three minutes of the second half.
“I think we did a great job of rebounding against them, but not in the first half,” Morey said. “Everything changed in the second half. It was a different team. We outrebounded them in the second half, giving them only one shot on offense because in the first half they had two or three. That was a big key.”
Mount was ice cold in the initial half and by the midway point of the contest was already staring at an 11-3 deficit. The Mounties managed to chop away at the Quakers’ lead and got within two points (14-12) with 2:14 remaining.
But the Quakers scored the final eight points for their double-digit lead going into the locker room.
“I was very concerned after the first half,” Morey said. “I told the girls to relax, play our game and they did.”
Moses Brown coach Laurie Center felt her squad’s first-half advantage could have been even larger had it made some easy shots.
“I got one senior on my team. I have the youngest team that I think I have ever had,” she said. “I think you saw all the mistakes that we made. I actually thought we lost the game in the first half, we missed seven breakaway layups. If we convert those it gives us a better cushion. That’s what happens with a young team. You’re either hot or cold. We got our cold spell when we came back in the second half.”
Rossi scored 11 of her points in the second half and Mount also got a strong effort from freshman Noreen Mulledy, who netted all her eight points in the second half and was five-for-seven from the charity stripe.
“(Rossi) played an excellent game,” Morey said. “She worked over the summer and came back ready. She didn’t play much last year. She worked hard in practices up to this point and really improved her game.”
Mount travels to Mount Pleasant on Tuesday night. Saia could sit out that game as well, recovering from a hip contusion from the Panthers’ tilt.
Morey is optimistic about her team this winter. Last year the Mounties were 14-2 in the league and lost to Westerly in the quarterfinals.
“We have potential,” she said. “I think it’s going to take them a little while to gel. We’ll see. With people injured, it’s going to take a little time to get our rhythm and come together and hopefully we’ll do well.”