PROVIDENCE — The time seemed appropriate for reflection, not reliving the course of events that transpired Saturday afternoon on the campus of Rhode Island College.
Certainly it wasn’t the ending George Coderre and his proud Woonsocket squad envisioned. A La Salle team that was superior in just about every tangible category ended the Villa Novans’ glorious run at the top, 61-33, in the Division I quarterfinals. The game pitted last year’s championship combatants, with the Novans taking the title by a 40-34 count.
“The kids did mention it as a little bit of a payback thing, but we (as coaches) didn’t,” said La Salle head coach Sean Reddy when asked if last year’s outcome was brought up in the days and hours leading up to Saturday. “George had a wonderful team last year; they were just better than us on that particular night.”
The same thing could be said Saturday, as La Salle, the top seed from the south, dominated right from the opening tap. Facing a Woonsocket squad that was thin in the reserve department, Reddy launched a multitude of full-court pressing schemes that played right into his Rams’ favor. Michelle Brayboy was the focal point of the Rams’ harassing nature, as it was rare to see the Woonsocket point guard bring the ball up the court against the same La Salle player.
The plethora of different looks La Salle confronted Brayboy with helped steer the game in the Rams’ favor. La Salle turned the Villa Novans, the north’s No. 4 seed, over 13 times in the opening half on its way to building a commanding 37-16 advantage at recess.
“It takes us a while to get all of our (presses) in, and at this time of year we like to have them all in and polished up. As you could see, they were all good,” said Reddy. “George’s team isn’t as great as ours and we figured fatigue would be a factor. We wanted to make sure it was by extending the floor.”
Said Coderre, “It’s just not about being deep, which La Salle is. It’s also being well structured and organized. Their coaches do such a great job about the talent they have. They were just far better a team than us today.”
Woonsocket’s point production boiled down to two players, as senior Ashley Dubois popped for a game-high 19 points while Brayboy hit three 3-pointers on her way to registering 13 points. La Salle’s scoring summery could be surmised by one of two ways. The Rams placed three players in double figures, as Caitlyn Cornell and Priscilla Dunphy each hit for 13 points. Perhaps just as impressive was that of the 13 bodies Reddy used Saturday, 11 wound up registering points.
To make matters even worse for Woonsocket, which saw its seven-game playoff winning steak snapped, was that junior Kailey Fugere was still hindered by an injured Achilles tendon. She was in the starting lineup, though it was clear that she was operating at less than 100 percent. Fugere, who delivered a career-best 32 points against South Kingstown in the preliminaries, didn’t even last two minutes before Coderre forced her to tag out.
“By the second play of the game we knew Kailey was a shell of her former self and wouldn’t be able to go,” Coderre said. “She wasn’t going to ask out, but you could see that every step she took was painful. Finally we said that she’s way too good to leave her in there and have people see that as the lasting impression. She is fully capable of dominating a game, but she had absolutely nothing.
“(La Salle) is simply way too good to not have all of your ducks in a row to attack with,” Coderre went on.
La Salle, which now faces Bay View in the semis, finished with a whooping 30 points in the paint in the first half. Woonsocket’s only hope was for La Salle to go spiral completely out of control in the second half, but that never happened as the Rams refused to take their foot off the gas. La Salle went up as many as 30 (60-30) with less than four minutes remaining.
On a day that saw Woonsocket’s reign come to an abrupt end, Coderre could only reflect on what the last several seasons have meant to him and the program.
“We would have liked to have lived up to the legacy that we’ve established here, but I don’t think we embarrassed ourselves today,” said Coderre. “We were overmatched and we knew that, but they never stopped trying. I know a lot of these guys are excited about coming back next year and wanting to regain some of the respect we have earned in the past.”