CENTRAL FALLS – There were a fair share of turnovers and some sloppy play by both teams, something that’s common for the first game of the season.
But after 32 minutes of basketball in Friday’s non-leaguer between North Smithfield and host Central Fall, both coaches were satisfied with the effort – one that equated to a 45-34 victory in the Warriors’ favor.
“I was very impressed, very impressed with the girls’ energy,” said first-year coach Jayar Santos, who replaces longtime Warrior mentor Joe Handy.
“I think they played really well for their first game of the season,” 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. “Obviously, 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 better…As soon as we get that rolling, we will have a pretty good shot this year.”
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 Northmen’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.
“It was all defense,” said Santos. “It was hard work by our twin towers (Gonzalez and Cabral) underneath. Rebounding, that’s what we stressed all week and that’s what got us together. Shariela pretty much carried us the whole game, defensively and offensively. She carried us today.”
“I thought we could have stopped them by pressing,” said Bannon, about the Warriors’ second run. “I don’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.”
North Smithfield was keyed by 11 points from Strick, one of several key returning starters from last year’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 winter’s campaign
“I have a really fast team and they work hard and they play great defense,” she said. “We have been working with the same offense for a few years and it’s good because now they are starting to get into the swing of things and they are finally putting it in motion.”
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 year’s team, including Jiminez, Cabral, Gonzalez and twin sisters and seniors Anjelique and Brianna Cooley
“A lot of these girls were part of the team last year and a lot of them were juniors,” Santos said.