LINCOLN – Joe Handy has been coaching long enough to know that when you take over a program for the first time the transition period isn’t always going to be easy. With a new coach and a new system, it’s not always going to be smooth.
In his first year at Davies Tech after two decades at Central Falls, including 10 as the head coach, Handy experienced one of those lumps on Monday.
A very speedy and athletic Juanita Sanchez outfit dominated in every facet of the game and handed the Patriots their first league loss in three tries in Division III with a 57-27 rout. The Cavaliers’ Sandy Kun torched the twines with six 3-pointers and a game-best 28 points.
After his team’s 30-point defeat, Handy talked about the difficult transition period. He takes over for longtime coach Gerry Suggs.
“With all due respect for the players, it’s got to be tough It really is,” said Handy, who led Central Falls to the school’s first-ever state title in 2008-09. “It’s got to be tough for the players when they are used to certain things and their repetition has changed. I coach my way and Gerry coaches his way. We both have our own philosophies.”
“I told the girls I don’t know what to expect,” he continued. “I don’t know who started last year. I told them, ‘I really don’t know you. You got to try out for my team. We are going to start and see what works. I want a continuous effort. You are going to work had from start to finish.”
Juanita Sanchez (2-0 in Div. III, 5-2 overall) held a significant size advantage over Davies and their fast-paced offense often made things difficult for the Patriots. The Cavaliers raced out to a 34-17 lead by halftime.
The biggest nuisance that the Patriots had to contend with was one of their smallest players, the five-foot Kun. The senior sharpshooter scored 24 points by the break with five coming from behind the arc.
In a non-leaguer against Div. II foe Classical on Dec. 12, a 62-46 defeat, Kun netted 39 points with nine 3-pointers.
“We didn’t double team her,” said Handy. “What it is we knew their play and it was a very obvious play. She was coming around off from a one-pick and she was getting her shots. All we did was cheat on her a little bit. She was on. She’s a good shooter. I remember her from a few years ago. She’s a nice shooter. I knew that coming in that that would be their strength. But they had other girls that really stood out and they have some size.”
Juanita Sanchez, which held the Patriots scoreless the final 3:32 of the opening half, continued their quick offense and stifling defense at the start of the second half. The Cavaliers scored nine unanswered points to begin action after the break before Davies junior Kaitlin Flynn (team-best 12 points) sank a pair of free throws with 10:50 remaining in the game.
The Cavaliers had 12 points from freshman D’Asia Allen and six points and more than a dozen rebounds from Zara Keita, a six-foot center.
“They are just deep, really deep,” Handy said. “They are well-coached. They were hitting their shots. I was impressed. They were looking for that extra pass. Yeah, I was impressed.”
Davies returns two starters – sophomore Waleska Kelly and Flynn – from last year’s team that was edged by eventual state titlist Middletown, 30-29, in the semifinals. The Patriots’ travel to the Islanders’ court on Thursday.
Over time, Handy envisions success with his newest squad.
“I think we can sneak in and upset some teams, but we have to play well,” he said. “Right now, we are a little nervous. We got to cut our turnovers down. I am stressing defense. We don’t have a very big team, but I am stressing defense. I do want to get out there and push. My teams (at Central Falls) were up-tempo teams. There are some good athletes. We will push if we have to. I think down the road we will be a team you do not want to play. I am not saying we will contend for a title, but I think we will challenge.”
JUANITA SANCHEZ (57) – Sandy Kun 10 0-0 28, Jaleah Robinson 1 1-2 3, Shaila Cole 2 0-0 4, D’Asia Allen 5 1-1 12, Bianca Archila 1 0-0 2, Enma Carbrera 1 0-0 2, Zara Keita 3 0-0 6. Totals – 23 2-3 57
DAVIES TECH (27) – Kaitlin Flynn 3 4-5 12, Waleska Kelly 1 1-3 4, Liz Arruda 1 0-0 2, Stephanie Martin 0 2-2 2, Jakeline Sequen 0 1-2 1, Christina DePina 2 2-5 7. Totals – 7 10-17 27
Halftime – JS, 34-17. 3-point goals – JS (7): Kun 6, Allen. D (3): Flynn 2, DePina.