SOUTH KINGSTOWN – It's bad enough that Mount St. Charles Academy had to contend with another strong outing from Prout School standout Emily Caswell in Saturday's Division II state finals.
But it also had to deal with its worst offensive showing of the season.
Caswell poured in a team-best 20 points. Along with her effort and a stifling Crusaders' defense, Mount saw its spectacular winter campaign on the hardwoods come to a crashing halt inside the Ryan Center with a overwhelming 40-24 loss.
“We tried to hold Emily down. I don't know what she had, maybe around 20? But we just couldn't get anything going on offense,” MSC coach Nina Morey said. “That was it right there. We have never had 24 points in a game. Usually we have that at halftime. I don't know what it was. Today our shots didn't go in and theirs did. That was the difference.”
In their three games prior to Saturday's contest, the Crusaders limited their opponents in the postseason to an average of 33.3 points. Operating out of a zone defense throughout the afternoon, Prout limited the Mounties to a dismal 19 percent from the field on 10-for-51 shooting.
Perhaps the player most affected by the Crusaders' defense was senior Maria Saia, who scored just nine points and was three-for-15 from the field. The talented forward, who registered her 1,000th career point in the Mounties' win over Rogers in their semifinal contest, was pestered throughout the afternoon by Prout senior Jordan Oswinkle. The 5-foot-11 Oswinkle finished with 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“She was unbelievable,” said Prout coach Phil Quinn, whose squad copped the league title in Div. II-South at 16-2. “She is one of the best post players in the state in Division I, II or III. It doesn't matter. Jordan just didn't make it easy for her. We talked about making it hard for her when she was without the basketball. We talked about making her move a little harder, make her have to make a stronger move even without the ball. That's what you don't really see as a fan, but what we see as coaches.”
The Mounties outside game was non-existent with just one shot beyond five feet, an eight-footer by Saia for their first points of the game.
Mount's struggles were evident from the start. The Crusaders scored the first six points and held an 11-2 advantage by the midway point of the first half. Trailing by their nine-point deficit, the Mounties managed to respond with its biggest offensive spurt of the game with a 6-0 run that began with back-to-back layups from Saia and senior Nicole Grinsell and included a pair of free throws from senior Alyssa Rossi (six points).
Prout wasn't exactly shooting the lights out either, but it went into halftime with a 15-8 lead.
“The thing about our defense and what we talked about was contesting shooters because they can make a lot of open 15-footers,” Quinn said. “I have to look at the game film later, but if they had two open jump shots I would be shocked...That's what we talked about the most, contesting their shooters and not letting them have easy touches.
“That's how we've made our runs all year. We don't go on 24-10 runs, 14-0 runs because of our defense. Our offense picks up our defense. That's how we make our runs, making stop after stop, after stop.”
“It was obviously their defense,” said Morey, about her team's offensive woes. “But sometimes we have halves where we don't score, and today it was like the whole game that we didn't score.”
Caswell, who had 14 points after the break, made sure the Mounties wouldn't gain any momentum at the start of the second half by nailing a 3-pointer just 30 seconds into the half. The Mounties managed to get within six points when Rossi hit a running jumper inside the paint to get the score to 20-14 with still 11-plus minutes remaining. But the Crusaders' inside presence spelled the difference the remainder of the game.
Prout built its lead to 28-16 by the midway point and increased it to 38-22 with two minutes left on the clock.
Mount concludes a year in which it captured the Div. II-North title with a 17-1. For Saia and several of the other seven seniors on this winter's squad, they finish their careers with four postseason appearances and a combined league record of 61-4.
“We were 17-1 and the division champs, I am very proud in how they played,” Morey said.
“Especially in the playoffs, we had some huge games, most definitely against Rogers (a 59-52 win). I couldn't ask for anything else.”
MOUNT(24) – Tara Murray 0 0-0 0, Adrianna Maurano 0 1-2 1 Taylor Messier 1 0-2 2, Paige LaBreche 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Rossi 2 2-4 6, Lauren Mallon 1 0-4 2, Maria Saia 4 1-5 9, Noreen Mulledy 1 0-0 2. Totals – 10 4-15 24
PROUT (40) – Victoria Jedson 3 0-0 7, Madeline Hagerty 3 1-1 7, Jordan Oswinkle 0 2-4 2, Emily Caswel 5 9-10 20, Brittany Donovan 1 1-3 4. Totals – 12 13-18 40
Halftime – P, 15-8. 3-point goals – P(3): Jedson, Caswell. Donovan.